Digital Citizenship

Monica Lewinsky and Cyberbullying

                My biggest takeaway from watching the video is that everyone makes mistakes, but some people pay much more for their mistakes than others. If I had to sum up my reaction in one word, I’d say it would be, “right” (in a prolonged, sarcastic tone, with an eye roll). It took me a few minutes and a couple of times re-watching a few scenes to eliminate at least SOME of my negative feelings. Lewinsky says that one night she was a private figure, but the next she was humiliated through technology on a global scale. What I have a problem with is that Lewinsky was ALWAYS a public figure– when you work with or for the president, YOU ARE A PUBLIC FIGURE! In addition… when you make the KIND of mistake she made (and I am NOT saying she is the only one who made the mistake) you also need to know what the consequences could be. If she had made that mistake with someone random on Elm Street, perhaps her reputation would be ruined in her neighborhood, but instead she made the mistake with the president of the United States. If this had happened after social media became the norm, the news would have spread more quickly, and she would have been even more publically humiliated than she already was. I think that because she made the mistake of getting involved with a married man who had a family, she was bound to face consequences from that. However, bullying and threatening someone is neither worthwhile nor kind. She claimed that her private words, photos, etc. were stolen from her and made public to be made part of the investigation without her consent and without context. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if social media had been around when this all happened. She did deserve  the bullying and the loss of her reputation, but she certainly should have expected it. Someone who makes DIFFERENT kinds of decisions, like the Clemente example she shared abou the student who was filmed without his knowledge while engaging in a sex act with someone of the same sex, HE did not deserve NOR should he have expected the kind of bullying that happened after that happened, but it was because he did not make a mistake.  Lewinsky finally caught my attention when she stated, “Cruelty to others is nothing new, but online, technologically enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained, and permanently accessible.” She called the humiliation the “echo of embarrassment” and explained how it used to only extend to your immediate surroundings. Now, with social media, it extends globally and lasts forever, which is something I think is very unfair and very unforgiving. What I take away from it all is this: I can only control my own actions. If I uphold my behaviors in a way that I see moral and sound, then I am doing the best that I can. I should expect consequences to my mistakes, and I will strive to avoid making as many as possible.

                I don’t think you can prevent cyberbullying. I have sat here pondering this question and Googling “how to prevent bullying” and there is no answer to it! There is no way to keep a mean or insecure person from doing something negative like bullying. However, you can promote kindness, and if I had unlimited resources, I would promote kindness in as many ways as I could. I would hire motivational speakers, much like the one in this Ted Talk by Shane Koyczan, so people could hear his story and decide to be kind.  I would send students who are hurting from being bullied to as many qualified and skilled counselors as they needed. I would have “Kindness” days every school year where we would have an entire day OUT of the classroom and spend it learning coping mechanisms and various ways to connect, build relationships, and promote kindness. I would participate in as many “pay it forward” activities as I possibly could so that people would catch my kindness like a cold and spread it like a virus, instead of people spreading their filth like the virus it actually is.  When I hear “unlimited resources” I think more of time and energy than money. Money can’t buy kindness, and it can’t teach others to care. But people can find others to help, and they can find time to spend helping. I guess I would do everything I possibly could to care more about others and less about myself, which I often don’t have the time to do. I have very limited time, so I spend most of it caring for my immediate friends and family. I would love to have the ability to spread that to more people more often. As a teacher, I am in a position to model behavior for 180 days a year to 125 students, and I need to take advantage of that responsibility more often and in more obvious ways.


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