Gossip, Bullies and Technology

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Gossip, Bullies and Technology

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Have you ever been the target of untrue gossip?

You could be labeled as the "Most Hated Slut on Campus" or find your name in this sentence: "John Doe has an STD." Other students could rate you as hot, ugly, gay, annoying or worse and post outright lies about anyone or anything they want—all anonymously.

JuicyCampus.com is a gossip Web site for college students that is quickly spreading across the United States. It encourages users to post "juicy" slander anonymously about anyone. Gossip, lies and bullies have always existed, but now there's the technology to magnify the damage.

Unlike the bullies of yesteryear who used face-to-face confrontation, the nasty words hurled back and forth now can be texted, e-mailed, IMed, posted and read 24/7. Humiliation is relived over and over with a huge audience.

And you don't have to be in college to experience the pain. About a third (31 percent) of all students ages 12 to 14 have been bullied online ("CyberBullies—A High-Tech Problem: Part 1").

The free speech problem

With human nature at its worst, people use "free speech" as a justification to launch personal attacks and say anything. These cyberbullies feel invincible as they hide behind fictitious user names and anonymous Web sites making them hard to trace.

This creates a vicious cycle: Anonymity --> Invincibility --> No face-to-face --> Can't see hurt inflicted --> Less regret or sympathy --> Emboldened bully --> More vicious attacks.

Our society is losing outgoing concern for others. It's all about me and what I can get. People tear down others to make themselves look better.

Be a part of the solution

A group of Princeton University students started a campaign called Own What You Think to counteract the negativity of JuicyCampus. They equate anonymity with cowardice and are trying to regain harmony among students.

Vertical thinkers can be part of the solution, too:

  • Prevent online bullying and gossip or recover from it by checking out "What Can Be Done" at cyberbullying.org.
  • Avoid gossip Web sites and ganging up on someone elsewhere online.
  • Find ways to be positive and encouraging.
  • Remember how important you personally are to God and how healing His love can be.

The real cyber-gossip problem

Technology is not the problem of and by itself. People are the problem. More and more there's talk of online etiquette. Some states in the United States are beginning to legislate what's happening online, trumping free speech when it disrupts a student's ability to learn ("Cyberbullying, Part 3").

God is very frank about our thoughts and how we express them in words. "But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8).

However, your Creator offers you the solution—communicate using His wisdom, which "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits [actions], without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).

These are all very positive words. Instead of instigating fights and tearing others down, strive to build people up by showing respect and concern in person and online.

Heralding an era of wisdom

"Blogs and online communities were supposed to herald an era in which 'the wisdom of crowds' guided online behavior to a higher plane. Instead, instances of mob rule appear to be leading the discussion into the sewer" (San Francisco Chronicle).

There is an era of true wisdom coming for all aspects of technology and human behavior that includes you! To find out about it, read "Waiting on the World to Change." VT

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