Cyberbullying Via Facebook

This past weekend while I was out of town on my girls getaway weekend, my intention was to opt out of social media. No tweeting, no Facebooking, no nothing. So, imagine my surprise when I checked my email and found a slew of Facebook notifications relating to two of my FB friends who were commenting on a status update from earlier in the week. Confused, I scrolled through the messages, trying to make sense of why a guy I knew in college and wasn’t even in touch with anymore (outside of FB) and a good friend from Seattle, were apparently having a cross-country virtual back and forth. As I read message after message, I started to feel sick to my stomach. These two guys were cutting each other down with language of  intolerance, insensitivity, and elitism. The worst part? It was all happening on my Facebook page.

Panicked, I made a late night call to my hubby back in Seattle, and asked him to delete the posts as soon as possible. When I hung up the phone, the posts were gone from my page, but I was still stunned by what had transpired. How had my status update, one in which I remarked about how inspired I had been by the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, become the spark for cyberbullying by two people who don’t even know each other?

I don’t want to go into details about what was actually said. Suffice it to say that one friend pushed the other’s buttons, lines were drawn in the sand, and there was no looking back. In reading the comments, I totally understand how those buttons were pushed, and sympathized with the friend who was attacked in the first place. In fact, I’m unfriending the person who started it all because our values are completely at odds with each other and I frankly don’t want the unhealthy, negative energy around me. But here’s the thing – even though it was started by one person, even though I was equally offended by that one person’s comments, it took both friends to keep the conversation going, to keep the back and forth going back and forth.

There are all kinds of cliches to sum up how I’m feeling about this whole event, like turn the other cheek, don’t pour fuel on a fire, it takes two to tango…you get the point. But what I really want to say is, whatever side of the discourse you’re on, whatever your belief system, hate is hate. Intolerance is intolerance. And trying to make someone feel bad about who they are is bullying. Plain and simple.

I’m not writing this because I want my friend to feel bad for getting dragged into an online sparring match that I know was very upsetting to him. He has apologized to me for the whole thing, and of course I accept this. I guess my plea is that people be more thoughtful with the intention we put out into the world by the things we do and the things we say. There’s a difference between intending to defend ourselves and intending to make someone else feel bad.

So, I present you all with this challenge: the next time someone gets you riled up by saying something hurtful, pushing your buttons, trying to drag you into an uncomfortable conversation, of even making a rude comment to your Facebook status update, take a pause before you take action and ask yourself, what is my intention here? If it’s negative in any way, shape or form, do yourself a favor and walk away or make a different choice. You may not have the last word in that moment, but you’ll definitely feel less angry in the long run, not to mention be making a strong statement that says, the cycle of bullying stops here. And how great would that be?


  1. Melissa Wardy Said,

    November 3, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    How funny that you write this post as a childhood friend did something very similar to me last week. I was shocked at the things he said, completely out of character for our friendship. I chose to respond in kindness, and take the high road. He ended up deleting the comment and sending me a private apology. Once he explained his side in a calm and respectful manner, we found some common ground and I actually invited him to write a blog post for me on some of his points.

    Sounds like what took place on your page was a bit different, but responding with kindness was certainly the right way to go!

  2. dreber Said,

    November 5, 2010 @ 10:08 am

    Melissa, It is really interesting to be in touch with people from our past who may not “know” who we are now or how we have changed, etc. I’m always surprised at how fundamentally different many of my high school and college FB friends are from me, how different their values and belief systems. it does create some challenges from time to time!

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