There's an epidemic in our culture, and it is disheartening.
Most of it is unwarranted and unprovoked. Most of it hides behind a cloak of anonymity in the social networking universe that has engulfed our generation. Some are hurt, repeatedly, without even being able to recognize their attacker on the street.
When I attended elementary, middle and high school, things were different. There was no real anonymity. I knew which classmates wanted to humiliate me. I sat next to them in class. They would sign their actual names on their mean notes to me in between periods.
These days kids, teens and adults are bullied around the clock on the internet. I read an article the other day that cyber bullying has become a growing issue even in the military. Like a rabid disease, bullying has mutated into something we know exists, however, we are still not sure how to combat successfully.
My schoolyard days are far behind me; however, as my writing has gained a bigger platform in books and on popular blogs, such as the Huffington Post, I found myself, once again, the target of other people's unwarranted, unprovoked ridicule.
I found myself coming across the hurtful Internet posts and wondering why I was still dealing with this, nearing 30 years old.
I welcome constructive, not destructive, criticism. The latter attacks me as a person -- my looks, body, clothing or character -- not my grammar and syntax. Constructive criticism is one huge way I learn and grow as a writer. But often times, it is not constructive comments I am reading.
Yes, I understand that I have "chosen" to put myself out there where praise and disdain run rampant by having my work published online.
We can have opposing views, you can challenge my thesis, and you can enlighten me with your well thought out argument. Everything isn't for everyone, and I understand that. However, I rarely see these comments. Instead I see comments noting how my "arms are way too long," or how my "hair is so ugly!" or how I am a "stuck up nasty b****." These comments are meant to be hurtful. They add nothing of substance to the conversation. They just sting.
It's no secret that it's a frightening time to be a kid. They possess the whole world in their pocket around the clock. They have access and exposure to things parents are having more and more trouble monitoring.
Social media has become such a toxic environment. It is my hope that by sharing these comments I have received, I can show that no one is immune to online hazing. By drawing from my own experiences, I hope to acknowledge an ever-growing issue.
Things are scarier now; this world of anonymity has brought with it no sense of accountability for words said. So, in turn, the words get sharper and more pointed, which pierces victims even deeper.
I am concerned about the kids being bullied. My skin is thicker than most of the students walking the hallways just trying to make it through the school day. Only to then, in their bedrooms where they are supposed to be safe, be pounced on over their social media applications. They are tormented relentlessly. We see it on the news once it is too late. Their internet fingerprint reveals that every day for months, maybe years, they were provoked by classmates and strangers, urging the victim to "just kill" themselves.
There are some people who would rather die at the age of 13 than live their lives. How sad is that? They want to die before they even really begin to live because they are repeatedly victimized.
Kids who have bedtimes and babysitters are having real suicidal thoughts during this time that is supposed to be the most carefree time of their lives. Instead of their parents seeing them grow up into young adults, some are cutting their children down from the rope they find their child hanging from in their bedroom closet.
Cyber bullying needs to stop; it is causing irrevocable destruction to lives -- for what? What pleasure do we get out from hurting another person? Is this our culture now? That just because it is easier than ever to torment another, we should just accept this is how it is going to be?
If you are reading this and have ever wondered whether the world would be a better place without you the answer is no; the world would not be a better place without you. Suicide is never the answer.
However, the world would be a better place, if people were a little bit nicer to one another.
"...and more ink from my pen and more tears from my eyes. And more crimes are committed as I say these lines." - Beastie Boys, "Flowin' Prose."
Those words could not ring any truer today. I am sure that, even as I am writing this, there are people crying themselves to sleep. There are young people contemplating suicide because they truly believe that ending their life is the only way the pain will ever stop. There are students more afraid of riding the school bus than taking an exam. And at this very moment, there are people even hating on this article about why we need to stop hating. Some may lash out on this article, thinking they are proving a point, but in doing so, they aren't disproving mine.
On average, as a species, we get a measly 79 years on this planet. If we are lucky. Do you realize how short that is in the scheme of things? Why are some exhausting so much of their time trying to ruin another's day?
I believe that as much as we are the problem, we can also be the solution. Instead of using the Internet to hurt someone, use it to empower people and make others feel good about themselves. And if you don't have anything nice to say, just keep scrolling.
Life is short. Spend your time here wisely, and just be nice to people.
Cook's Instagram: @thealiciacook
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.