Have you ever thought of yourself as a bully? Or have you ever been bullied? Have you ever written a nasty comment or publicly embarrassed someone online?
The one-off documentary ‘Cyberbully’ starring Maisie Williams addressed these issues when it aired on 15th January. While it looked like a stereotypical teenage drama, it managed to convey a hard-hitting life lesson to all those watching – both young and old.
The documentary showed a young girl whose computer is hacked, she suffers nude photos, personal videos and hurtful comments to both friends and strangers being published upon the social media website Twitter, and while at first we believe that Casey (the character that Maisie Williams plays) is the victim, it soon shifts to show the hypocrisy of her character, with negative, hurtful and bullying comments that she has previously said being made public.
The documentary covered a vast number of topics concerning online bullying, things such as taking responsibility of your voice online, anonymity masking real people, victim shaming and of course the real dangers and effects that cyber bullying can have, which was shown through the heartbreaking suicide of a young girl.
Bullies and anonymous trolls ignore these issues every day, and it has become ingrained within society that cyber bullying and ‘trolling’ are a normal part of everyday life and growing up. The documentary places faces to the bully and the bullied, and it’s this personal, human element that created such a huge response on Twitter, where the hashtag: #Cyberbully managed to trend worldwide.
While the Twitter reactions intensified, the responses were mixed. The majority of viewers stated that the show was a masterpiece, and called for it to be compulsory viewing for school children to highlight the dangers of the internet.
I think everyone should watch Cyberbully, hopefully it’ll change people’s way of thinking when being online. Very powerful!
— Nina Nesbitt (@ninanesbitt) January 15, 2015
Some people called for better measures to be put in place to make it more difficult to bully and troll online. This relates to things such as the ‘dislike’ button on YouTube, as it merely facilitates trolling, negativity and online bullying. The Samaritans and the NSPCC also got involved in the twitter feed, highlighting places that you can receive help and counseling from if the programme affected you, emphasizing that those who are bullied online don’t have to face it alone.
— NSPCC (@NSPCC) January 15, 2015
Unfortunately, not all of the tweets were positive. A small number of people took to their keyboards to state that cyber bullying is a form of bullying that is self-inflicted – that can be eradicated by simply turning off the computer.
There’s no such thing as cyber bullying, just log out and go to the park you f*cking idiot. #cyberbully
— Lex Looper (@lex_looper) January 16, 2015
This close-minded view unfortunately reinforces the exact idea that the documentary strived to highlight; that we as society should take responsibility for our own voices and think more about what we put on the internet, instead of victim shaming and blaming others for our own actions and their consequences.
The documentary shocked both old and young generations into realising the dangers of documenting yourself online and the possible life threatening consequences of commenting on other peoples lives. Just like Casey, you could be bullying online without even realising and unfortunately in today technology based world, it becomes incredibly easy to become subject to hurtful, damaging and potentially dangerous comments.
With suicide and attempted suicide becoming increasingly and heartbreakingly common it’s time that something was done to illustrate the true depth of the problem. When your computer acts as your shield, it’s so easy to throw punches at those we don’t know, and with the fast-paced nature that is social media one comment is always enough to spark a flurry of negativity.
It’s time that we started thinking before we speak.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.