Cyberbully

It was a typical Monday night and the roommates and I were sitting down for our weekly viewing of The Bachelorette. I completely admit that the franchise is my biggest guilty pleasure. Even though the vehicle is unorthodox and doesn't necessarily work a lot of the time, watching someone chase after love is intriguing. No, I don't think the show promotes the best morals in terms of how we go about looking for love, but I love it nevertheless. This season has been one of "the most dramatic seasons of the Bachelorette ever"....as it always is (Chris Harrison I am buying you a thesaurus to up your adjective game) and tonight aired the "Men Tell All" episode. Always drama, always people accusing others or defending why they did something, always the heartfelt last words of the last gent sent home (<3 Ben H. <3) to Kaitlyn. All very typical MTA episode stuff. 

Kaitlyn made many choices on the show, some of which I agree with some of which I don't. She owned up to her choices and mistakes. The backlash of cyber harassment that followed her during the airing of the show was atrocious. Whether or not you agree with her, bullying someone for any reason is NOT okay. 

This is a topic very close to my heart. I work on a psychology research team that studies relational aggression and cyber bullying and works to create programs to help kids deal with aggression, bullying and friendship problems in healthy ways. It is disheartening to see adults take to social media outlets to bully and harass other individuals who they "know" through a TV program. 

There is a difference between expressing an opinion and harrassment. It is fine to disagree with any one person's choices and lifestyle and to defend your beliefs and morals. It is okay to feel a certain way about a person, a TV show and those who participated. In one of my programs, we teach our kids that "all emotions are okay but all actions are not okay". That's where the choice comes in. That is where you decide how to take what you are feeling and deal with it. 

A lot of bullying has to deal with power and I think with cyberbullying in particular, people who may not feel powerful in their everyday lives take to a space where they can remain anonymous to exert power over another person. Making fun of someone for their choices or appearance and using derogatory terms, which not only hurt the intended victim but normalizes the use of such language to make it seem okay to demoralize one another with that language, not only hurts that person and those in their life, but it also makes hatred socially acceptable. By attacking someone else to defend our beliefs we show others, especially those who learn from us, that the only way to stand up for your beliefs is to knock others down. We become less loving role models and become more stereotypes of religious judgement.

Our God is a God of love, not of hatred. Does that mean God endorses or wants His beloved children to disobey him? No, but that God also doesn't want His children spreading hatred and judgement as a way to try and get others to see His Message. Jesus didn't die for us and continue to offer Himself in the Eucharist to us  so that we may demoralized and judge our fellow brothers and sisters when they fall. He called us "to love our neighbor as ourselves" (Mark 12:31) and His future follower, St. Francis of Assisi calls us to "preach the Gospel at all time, if necessary use words." We don't change the hearts of others and help lead them towards Jesus by shaming them with hatred. We don't impact the next generation by dismissing someone as a role model by calling them derogatory names. We don't become more powerful leaders for Christ by making others less powerful. 


1 John 3:18