“On Wednesdays, we wear pink!”
That quote from the movie Mean Girls is perfectly fitting as we celebrate Pink Shirt Day on the last Wednesday in February. Why do we wear pink? In solidarity with a student who was made to feel like they didn’t fit in based on the colour of their shirt.
Many of us have experiences with bullying. Whether we’ve been bullied or have bullied another person, most of us convince ourselves that it ends after we get our high school diploma. The past is behind us – but is it really? What happens when we go off into the ’real world’?
Yes, the real world. The place that teachers, parents and guardians have always told us about after many years of school. We’ve been taught in schools that bullying is wrong, but the moment that we leave our assigned seats and school hallways, we feel like we have the freedom to do whatever we want, and we forget that what we learn in school doesn’t apply outside of it.
We are connected more than ever, and information posted on social media spreads like a wildfire. The same can be said about online bullying and harassment. When discussions go from debate to hate in a matter of minutes, it can be easy to lose ourselves. Communication has become so instantaneous that sometimes we don’t realize the consequences of our actions until after we hit Send.
Here’s an interesting fact: the average speed of handwriting copy is 68 letters per minute. The average person types between 38 to 40 words per minute. That’s between 190 and 200 characters per minute. Some of us can type as fast as we think. We may just skim over what we just typed and not give it a second thought after we submit it.
With political change happening everywhere, many people want to join in on the discussion. Social media activism is becoming more and more common, with positive results. Knowing how to harness social platforms safely and wisely can help us be more informed with the world. But it can also do harm if used incorrectly or with malice. Through written communication, we need to be more aware of how we convey our messages, because we are not face-to-face, things can easily be taken out of context. Sometimes, even the most innocently sarcastic remarks or jokes can be misinterpreted as threats, trolling and bullying too.
There are things you can do to prevent and deal with online bullying, these include:
- Be aware of what you post and say – everyone has the right to free speech, everyone has the right to disagree. But everyone has the responsibility to use to make sure that we are not spreading hate and hatred.
- Calling people out can have the potential to go from a civil discussion to hate quickly. However, you can assertively state your viewpoint without name-calling. There are different ways to deal with conflict. You may not be able to control the other person’s reaction, but you can choose how you react to them.
- Pay attention to warning signs– cyberbullying has lasting effects on someone just like bullying in schools does. If someone is posting negative and suicidal messages, videos and pictures, reach out, because your never what they might be going through.
- Go offline. We can easily get sucked into the online world where is seems like negativity always trumps positivity. We forget that our lives don’t always need to centre around the online world. Seeing and responding to so much negativity is not good for our mental health. Remember to recharge and take a breather.
Fred Rogers – aka ‘Mr. Rogers’ to many of us who grew up watching his show – once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Underneath all the seemingly endless negative attitudes, don’t give up on finding the positive things that can turn it around and create change for the better.
Happy Pink Shirt Day!