I was a victim of cyber bullying during my freshman year of college. I will never forget the moment I was sitting at my favorite campus coffee shop, glancing through anonymous posts on a collegiate online forum, when I saw my name. The post said, “Melanie – you’re fat. If you cared more about your weight, people would care more about you.” I blinked back tears and ran to my dorm room in a daze as questions rushed through my mind. Who wrote this post? Are they right about me? Do other peers of mine think this too? I was mortified beyond belief, and for months after I read the post, I no longer felt safe or at home in my college community. The post triggered my deepest insecurities, and led me to constantly criticize myself. It shattered my self-esteem and my flawless perception of the community I had so recently become a part of.
I have come a long way since that moment back at the coffee shop. I am almost ready to graduate with a double major in Government and Sociology, I hold numerous leadership roles on campus, and I look forward to a vibrant career in social justice advocacy. Despite all this, I will never forget how strongly those hateful words affected my life and how my experience with cyber bullying was minor compared to the experiences of many others on this collegiate online forum. Cruel messages can lead to eating disorders, insecurities with sexual orientation, suicide, the perpetuation of stereotypes, and unnecessary tears. Let’s remember the true impact that our words can have on others, and the power that we all have to make sure that our words are kind ones.
via an email to the listserve.
Cyber bullying is indeed a huge problem; I know few people in my generation who have not in some way been affected by it. Melanie’s message is simple, raw, and powerful. I hope that by sharing it, awareness of words and actions, especially those that are amplified online, becomes clearer to folks who find hatefulness ok.