There have always been bullies on the playground and mean girls lurking in the school washroom. Their presence on the internet was inevitable—it's a more convenient place to beat up the nerd, shame the slut, and humiliate the chubby kid.
Recently I was privy to some online teasing. "Teasing" isn't the right word, actually. Teasing sounds like some harmless joking around. Kids being kids. But this was more than that. These bullies flipped their victim over and cut into her with their words. And more cutting than their calculated taunts was the palpable glee of the others who cheered them on.
This conversation took place on Facebook where these mean girls took obvious pleasure in making fun of one of their peers. They named called and virtually clapped their hands in giddy excitement at how fabulously outrageous they were.
They couldn't know for sure if the person they were discussing would read their taunts. But they couldn't know for sure she wouldn't.
If I were these ladies' mother, I would be so ashamed. However, I'm certain a girl I raised would never, could never, hurt another person like this on purpose. I'm a nice person. I've been told by some that I'm too nice. Funny how striving to avoid hurting others can be seen as weakness. I'm not weak. I stand up for myself when I need to. And I don't stand by and clap and fan the flames while somebody else is being bullied. Though I won't say who this post is about, I can say that their actions made me ill. These people mean nothing to me. And in cases like these, turning the other cheek is the only response. No, I won't out them. Not because they're minors and it wouldn't be right. Not that at all.
In fact, these particular mean girls are in their 40s and 50s. Full grown women. Mothers. Professionals.
You thought I was talking about a pack of hormonal teenage cyber bullies, didn't you? I mean it's flat out ridiculous that adults would act behave this, right?
I find it shocking that they would risk tarnishing their professional reputations by partaking in such immature cruelty. But I find it more shocking that they would risk modeling this kind of behaviour for their own children.
What if one of these women's daughters was caught bullying a peer online? Would her mother chastise her? Would she tell her with conviction that what she did was wrong? How could she possibly, when she herself is "queen of the mean girls"?
The whole thing makes me sad. The mean-spirited comments, the sarcastic tone, and belittling to cut someone down to size doesn't surprise me. "Considering the source" explains a lot. When a grown woman lashes out repeatedly like this, you know she's hurting. It sheds light on it, but it doesn't excuse it.
Unfortunately, she will continue to bully since she feeds off the attention it provides. Sadly, there will always be a mean girl posse to egg her on. These are the women and girls who have even lower self-esteem. They latch onto the biggest bully in hopes of feeling needed. Or possibly of being accepted as part of a group. Even if the group is cruel and shallow, they don't care. Cruel and shallow friends are better than no friends at all.
If I could speak to these women (preferably from across a wide ditch so I wouldn't be tempted to smack them in their smart-aleck mouths) I would say:
1. If you don't like someone, walk away. Nobody is forcing you to interact. The world is a very big place, so simply move along.
2. Not everybody does it "your way." If she likes cats but you can't stand them, don't share ranty Facebook posts about how much cats suck. Instead, post about how much you love dogs. Find the good things. Seriously, how are you making your life better by putting down what other people love?
3. Ask yourself how you would feel if the person being tormented were sitting in front of you... with her children on her lap. Would you laugh and clap and encourage the bully then? How about when her daughter asks, "Are you crying mommy? Why are you crying?" Would you feel smug then? I hope not.
4. If you wouldn't say it to somebody's face, keep it to yourself. In fact, why are you even thinking it? Quit paying so much attention to what other people have or are doing. Get a life. And if you focus more on yours, your life has a better chance of being a rich and fulfilling one.
5. Before you lash out, ask yourself how your outburst might look to a potential client or employer. You might think your "private" settings keep you anonymous. They don't.
6. If somebody took a screenshot of you at your online meanest and shared it with your mother, what would she think? If you answer: "She'd box my ears and tell me this isn't the daughter she raised!" then good. There's a chance for you. If you answer: "She'd agree with me and cheer me on!" I'm sorry. It's time to think hard about the person you want to be. Now is the perfect time to break the mean girl cycle.
We are what are children will grow up to be. So be nice (and if you're not nice, at least try and fake it). Set a good example. Please and thank you.