Last week as I walked around campus and went about my daily routine, I noticed some sticky notes in peculiar places. On building windows, bathroom mirrors and doors, kind messages were posted for all to notice. And as much as my inner environmentalist cringed at the excess use of paper, I was happy to see them.
I think we can all agree that both recent and past news about bullying around our country and around the world is upsetting. Pre — teens committing suicide because kids at their school are harassing them and being downright horrible is not something I want to hear about at the end of the day. But quite frankly, it happens more often than I’d like to imagine, and it’s not anything new.
Just last Thursday, a 15-year-old boy from Illinois named Jordan Lewis committed suicide, leaving a note behind that called his final decision a way to escape bullying.
Remembering back to when I was at that sensitive age, I can almost understand the motivation to bully. To fit in with the cool kids, I can imagine some of us doing anything; even make fun of the outcast. However, I can’t ever remember it being a life or death matter. The most extreme case would be that someone wasn’t invited to a birthday party, but the matter would blow over by the next week. “Bullying,” to me, was a fickle thing that could be solved by a simple apology.
However, something has clearly changed and the act has intensified in today’s culture. A huge factor in this apparent epidemic is the kind of TV that is being broadcasted to young viewers. How many shows are on every day that portray pretty girls acting cruelly to each other over the silliest things (like boys, looks or clothes)? These women seem “cool,” so why wouldn’t 13-year-olds copy their behavior and think it’s okay to say and do the same things to their peers?
The medium through which bullying is committed also plays a role in the increasing problem. As cyberspace becomes our main form of communication, the interaction between young people becomes constant and harder to supervise. Even among my friends now, having arguments over the Internet and texts seems to exacerbate situations.
As much as those notes made me smile last week, they can’t be all we do. Fighting bullying is difficult because there isn’t much you can do other than tell someone not to bully others.
Jordan Lewis’s father, Brad, took to the Internet in response to his son’s death stating: “This bullying has to stop. People have to stop treating other people the way they do.”
But in order for this harassment to truly stop, bullies need to fully understand the ramifications of their actions. Unfortunately, empathy is not a common attribute of teenagers, or young adults our age.
I know that bullying is prevalent in college — I’ve seen it. It’s important for our generation to realize that we must be role models for younger kids. When these bullies grow up and go on to college, their habits are going to get much worse in an even less supervised setting.
The problem is just beginning, and as kids get older, harassment will either get worse or the bullies will mature and make a change. I sure hope it’s the latter.