You know, I thought that, once I was out of high school, I wouldn't have to put up with bullies anymore - not the physical kind, not the emotional kind, and not the social kind. You know, you expect folk to grow up once they've gone on to become self-described adults.
Not so, apparently.
I run into bullies all the time. Fortunately, I am large enough and don't give a rip about my reputation, credit rating or social standing that I don't let them bother me anymore. Or so I thought. Turns out, however, that I'm still sensitive to bullying. I used to get knocked around in school a lot, when I was a skinny kid with good grades and glasses, so I'm kind of defensive of others I see being pushed around by the thugs of human society. Sadly, some of those bullies don't realize they are being bullies. Many of them in the complex world of today's social media are merely responding to bullying by passing it along in submission to the orders of those who are bullying them.
In school, this transference of bullying expresses itself in mob bullying. The bully would select a target, start the attack and then step back and watch those who were afraid of him participate in the bullying in an effort to appease him, or as Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan both described it, to "feed the crocodile hoping it will eat you last!"
On social media it takes a more subtle, but no less virulent form. I'm not talking about open cyber-bullying here. Everybody knows that's wrong, even those who do it. What I'm talking about is online thugs trying to force people to do things for their own amusement by making people do things to appease their own guilt over something or to do some duty they think has been forced up on them to avoid consequences they wish to avoid.
Let me 'splain!
Here are some forms of social media bullying that you may not have realized were bullying behaviors. I'm not saying people who do this stuff are necessarily bullies. In fact, most are not. Most are victims of bullies submitting to bullies for psychological reasons. Ask yourself, "Have I participated in doing this to my friends?"
- Share this or else...: This one is one of the most common types of social media bullying. In essence, it says, "Share this post" or "Like this post" or even the more complex "cut and paste this post" or something bad will happen. It may be bad luck, illness, missed opportunity to get lots of money or even death. The recipient is told to propagate this post to all their friends to prevent the negative consequence.
- Share this to get rich: You've seen those posts on your wall. Share this or like this or leave a comment and money, romance or good luck will come your way. Don't share it? See #1.
- Share if you love Jesus: This one is particularly evil. It offers a story of some miracle or some poignant situation or a Bible verse and then threatens you that if you don't pass it along to everyone on your friends list, then it proves you don't love Jesus. I don't think Jesus approves of that kind of thing, myself.
- "Can I get 2 million likes?": This one involves putting up some pitiful person - a wounded vet, an sick child or a sweet old grandma and then tries to guilt you into doing some action, usually comment, share or like or a combination of these. In checking some of these, I've found pictures lifted from elsewhere on the net and then repurposed with a phony story designed to draw sympathy and guilt you into taking some action that wastes your time and energy and gets you to help promote a lie.
- My __________ (teacher, mother, professor, friend) bet I couldn't get...: This one often comes with a picture of someone with something written on a white card held up in front of them. You see the same pictures over and over with different messages Photoshopped into the white space of the card. They say someone has bet them they couldn't get a thousand "likes" or shares or something or other. They probably didn't bet them squat. There are weird little people who like doing this for some reason. They probably get a thrill out of making people do things they want them to. There's no bet, you can bet.
- I'll know which of my friends doesn't share this: This one is really disgusting. It makes you feel like you are letting your friend down if you don't pass this along. Only problem is your friend only posted it because she thought she'd be letting down another friend by not passing this along and so on and so on. None of them are really going to check to see if you are sharing or not. They didn't write this in the first place. They're just submitting to a bully way back up the line who is laughing at them and getting a thrill from successfully manipulating so many people.
- This will be a short experiment: This ploy exploits self-pity. It purports to be an experiment to see how many people read the poster's wall. It demands that you prove you are really, truly their friend by doing something like sharing, liking, commenting in some special way or cutting and pasting the post (so it looks like it originates with you). It makes you feel guilty by insinuating that if you don't do what they demand, you aren't really their friend and who wants to disappoint a friend like that. The deal is that whatever you do, it's going to make it look like you are the one who is pressuring friends into some time-wasting effort to perpetuate a mean spirited manipulative load of baloney.
- "Can we get a million likes?": Here we go again. The perp in this case picks a sad story, a pitiful picture, a sweet child (preferably one with cancer), a wounded veteran or a sweet old lady and asks you to like the post to help reach some goal. What's the point other than racking up online time for Facebook so they can make more money from the ads they post.
- Share this if...: If you have a daughter who is special, a son you are proud of, if you support the troops, want to save the whales, support some politician or want to show solidarity with some cause. People feel compelled to share this stuff because they don't want people to believe they don't love their daughters, want to save the whales or aren't angry about the same issues their friends are. Good news. Nobody's keeping track, so you don't have to waste your time and clutter up your personal Facebook page with this junk. Nobody's gonna know. Nobody's gonna care whether or not you reposted this, except maybe your friends who have to wade through hundreds of these kinds of things in order to get to the things actually posted by their friends like news about the family, pictures or stories.
- Sign this petition if you care about...: There are a lot of petitions going around on the Internet these days. There are whole websites devoted to creating petitions with lots of names. Two things you should know. Sometimes they work and sometimes they have no effect at all. The latter mostly. If you feel strongly about an issue, go ahead and sign the petition. That doesn't mean you have to share it with all your friends. I almost never signs a petition that demands I pass it along to everyone I know. Because of the low chance of the petition actually working, I don't feel a lot of guilt in passing up these "opportunities".
To the perpetrators, I say, "There are a lot of kind-hearted, caring people out there online and to manipulate and con them into doing your will is despicable and you should stop doing this nonsense."
And to the victims, I say, to quote former first lady, Nancy Reagan, "Just say no!"
To assuage your guilt over refusing to respond to this sort of thing let me assure you that:
- Whoever sent you this type of post is not going to check up on you and throw you off their friends list if you don't share whatever it is or do whatever they tell you to.
- If they do throw you off their friends list - good riddance. Anyone who would do that simply because you didn't repost their butterfly/Kahlil Gibran quotation isn't your friend in the first place
- Passing this stuff along doesn't really help anybody.
The rest of us would like to see what YOU think, what YOU believe, and how YOU are doing out there in the wide world. It is, after all, why we friended you in the first place.
© 2016 by Tom King