In the age of cell phones, laptops and rapid communication, it is so easy for us as humans to send a quick text message or get our point across relatively quickly. Technological advancements such as email and Facetime have revolutionized casual conversations as well as professional business communications. Our quick ability to send a message about exactly what we are thinking at any one time could be viewed as a godsend to some –– but as with everything else, there are drawbacks.
The internet is a petri dish of potential for bullies and stalkers. Because it is so simple to type something and send it, many people have lost the ability to use a filter. Not only that, but the idea of remaining anonymous behind a keyboard attracts the worst of people who know they will be able to make harsh comments without any retribution. The hurtful words usually cannot be traced by an ordinary person. It is also 10 times easier to call someone “ugly” or “annoying” online because it removes the uncertainty and uncomfortableness of having to do so face-to-face.
I saw this trend relatively recently with Charli D’Amelio, the viral 15-year-old from Norwalk who has gained a massive following in just a few short months on the app Tik Tok. Charli is famous for her short dancing videos, and her fame has not come without its dark parts. Just a week ago, a slew of people online accused her of taking credit for the “Renegade” dance and stealing opportunities from the young black 14-year-old, Jalaiah Harmon, who originally created the dance.
The issue is this: Online bullying no longer takes the form of someone constantly messaging you or saying mean things about you like the classic “You’re so ugly! Go die!” type of messages you see from cyberbullying ads and PSAs years ago. Cyberbullying has taken the form of fundamentally misunderstanding people and their intentions, and making mindless comments in passing that are actually significantly damaging in retrospect.
Let’s go back to the example with Charli. She got popular during the summer, and never once claimed credit for the “Renegade” dance that now owns Tik Tok. In fact, the whole nature of Tik Tok is to allow people to use sounds (typically music from other creators) and make their own versions or slightly edited versions of other dances. The only reason why Charli was unnecessarily targeted and accused of untrue actions was because a whole cohort of people misattributed her fame to the creation of the “Renegade.” We quite literally had a whole group of people who, without actually looking into the history of the dance, immediately blamed Charli for stealing the “hype” from a 14-year-old girl. Don’t get me wrong –– this is still bullying.
It seems as though online we have adopted an “us vs. them” mentality. We love outrage and we love drama so long as we are not on the receiving end. Those who attempt to discredit Charli and call her horrible names are no better than any other classic bully you see online. Why do we have to be so damn mean?
A few weeks earlier, Charli had posted a dance video on her Tik Tok in a crop top. She has a slender figure (as most dancers do) and looked great per usual. But the comments told a whole different story. There were several mindless comments left reading, “Why is she built like that?” and “She looks different here.” Apparently, several people thought Charli looked bloated in her crop top. As though that’s not a normal aspect of being a 15-year-old teenage girl, or a woman in general.
The thing is, the people who probably left those comments assumed they were harmless. They probably figured Charli would never see them. That’s the fundamental problem with harmful comments on the internet today: The people sending them probably don’t see the problem with what they’re saying, or they’re so desensitized that they forget the person on the other end of their message is a human too and will likely see their comment.
But to all my ladies out there, do you remember being 15-years-old? Do you remember how damn difficult it was to love your body despite the awkward changes of puberty and menstruation? Hell, I’m 20 years old and I still find it difficult to love myself. We deal with this for life, guys and girls. Now imagine having a following near 30 million on a social media app, and all you can think about is the mindless comments from people saying you’re built weird or look bloated. In a world already so hyper focused on the female body, that must be incredibly damaging.
This whole phenomenon circles back to the very nature of the internet and social media in that it is so damn easy to say whatever you want. It’s so damn easy to neglect the feelings of the person on the other end of your message or comment. It’s so damn easy to immediately make a judgement about someone’s situation or controversy without doing proper research and making an educated opinion. All of it is so damn easy. And with that, it is so harmful.
So the next time you’re thinking of making a mindless comment on a post or a quick judgement, step back and think. It’s not necessary to respond, contrary to what the internet has taught you. And it’s equally not necessary to comment on something that has nothing to do with you and/or is not your place to comment on.
Taylor Harton is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.