When I was a child in the early 70’s bullying as a social phenomenon did not exist. Bullying was brick and mortar. The kid who stole your lunch money every week. The kids who repetitively made fun of your weight, physical handicap, racial or ethnic uniqueness. I have been bullied and have been the bully in an attempt to compensate for my shortcomings. I was bullied relentlessly over my weight. Words repeated do hurt and can inflict permanent damage. As a child and teen I had no real ability to reason through it. It caused significant psychological issues in my later life that I am still dealing with. Children are bullied every day. They need protection. They need to learn the tools to cope and “fight back” in acceptable ways when it happens.
What about adults? Can they be bullied? The short answer is yes. Even an adult can be in a position of unequal power that forces him/her to endure repetitive taunts whether its in the workplace, a relationship etc. The bully is still easy to spot. Unlike children however, adults generally have the gift of advanced reason and knowledge of options to deal with it.
With the advent of social media “bullying” has taken on a whole new meaning. People who say ugly things are now hidden behind Facebook pages and Twitter eggs. Hurtful insults are slung with a keystroke. It’s much easier and repetitive than stealing lunch money. Because of the ease of the repetitive keystroke, bullying has now taken on the broad based social media meaning of whatever hurts our feelings. Everyone becomes a “bully” when they say something unpleasant. This new concept of bullying irritates me. It irritates me because it diminishes and dismisses the true nature of bullying and those who truly need protection, our children. It also teaches our children that every stick and stone is bullying. This is simply not true and sends the wrong message.
The most recent example is Jennifer Lawrence, the Wisconsin news anchor who used her newscast as a platform to call someone a “bully”. A viewer sent her an email implying that she was too fat to be a news anchor and was setting a bad example for a children. Ridiculous? Yes. We are all more than our physical appearance. Hurtful? Sure. Even an adult and public figure does not like to be insulted. We are all human. If Jennifer wants to use her newsroom as a platform to call him out that’s her right. Is this guy a “bully” in the classic sense? NO! He’s an insensitive jerk. Not every insensitive jerk in the world is a “bully”
If Jennifer feels she was “bullied” that’s fine. We are all different and have different tolerance levels for assholes. However, for her to use her hurt feelings as a platform to teach our children that every perceived one time insult and hurt feeling they may experience in life is “bullying” was a mistake. She did them no favors. Children need to be taught the true nature of bullying and how it differs from the nature of some people to simply be jerks. It’s about power. It’s about repetitive conduct. It’s about intellect and mental resources to respond. It’s not about one adult telling another adult he/she is fat. As a society we need to step back and re-focus on the true nature of bullying and quit publicly defining it as anything that hurts our feelings