Something I worry about a lot when I imagine my baby growing up is internet danger and cyber bullying. Young people can be so naive and trusting, add recklessness and their habit of believing they’re bulletproof: it’s a worrying mix when it comes to the internet. I know what I was like, surfing the net and chatting online to strangers ‘before it was cool.’ I was still in high school and internet access wasn’t readily available, so I used to go to internet cafes on weekends to get my fix. I had no idea who I was talking to, but I thought it was boys my own age. I had so much trouble socialising in real life it was nice to finally have someone to talk to and boys no less! Online I was popular, boys liked me which was something I didn’t have in real life. Looking back, I realise the only reason I was popular online was because I was a young girl, but at the time it felt amazing.
Nowdays, the internet is everywhere. Primary school age children have access to online games every day most of which have a chat feature. We teach them stranger danger but I’m not sure if every child understands that people online are also strangers who could bully or harm them in real life; I sure didn’t. I want my children to have the freedom to use initiative and make their own decisions, but I also worry about what they will be doing online when that time comes. Monitoring use is all good, but I believe it will be vital to keep communication open when it comes to this topic, to keep them safe.
As adults, we use the internet for everything. Facebook with our friends (and some strangers), Instagram for showing the world just how awesome we are, we read news online, find recipes, study or learn how to do almost anything from YouTube. If we don’t know what something is a quick visit to Google will often answer our question (not always correctly). The best (and worst) part about the internet is that we can share our opinions with literally anyone, whether they want to know or not, like I do on this blog. Almost everything has a comments section, which is where the Keyboard Warriors come into play.
This week saw the final of the second season of The Bachelor NZ on our screens. I don’t watch a lot of reality TV anymore and I’ve never really watched The Bachelor, but the bachelor they’d selected was a person I went to primary school with and who I’d kept up to date with on Facebook for many years, so I watched every episode. Sure, I haven’t seen or talked to Jordan for years and had little to do with him in school, but remember him being a really nice guy and I saw this translated into his adult life on Facebook. From what I saw on the show he seemed like exactly the same guy as well, just older.
There was a lot of discussion online about how boring he was. I disagreed, but each to their own. After the final episode aired there was the usual discussion on social media about how he made the right choice, the wrong choice, or about how lame the show was. A couple of days of radio and TV interviews went by and it looked like everything would run it’s course and we’d stop talking about it after a while. Then the news hit that Jordan had ended things with the winner, Fleur, just two days after the final. They had spent seven weeks since filming finished only contacting each other by text or phone, and one date in person due to the extreme secrecy needed for the final episode and unfortunately for Jordan the euphoria he felt during filming waned during this time. I was confused at first, but realised it was hardly surprising considering the surreal situation and extreme romantic dates he went on and the fact that he was suddenly in a long distance relationship with a woman he barely knew. It happens and I commend him for not leading Fleur on for months, instead ending it before she got invested.
New Zealand, it would seem, did not share my view. The internet exploded into a mass of negativity. Fleur’s video explaining the breakup went viral and was bombarded with comments of support for her and name-calling for Jordan. The media went crazy with articles and opinion pieces popping up left and right, receiving the same flood in the comments section. Even the controversial outspoken runner up copped it, being told it was her fault and called every woman-hating name under the sun. Some people felt ripped off after viewing the entire season. Others called Jordan a coward. It became popular opinion that because he’d done a tiny amount of acting in the past that he was put on the show as an actor and got paid thousands. These were the tame comments. He got called every nasty thing you can think of and some people even went as far to comment that he needed to die. Really? He needs to die because he broke up with a girl? The only difference between this breakup and a breakup after a few dates for any other man was that his was publicised. After he released his own statement about the break-up even his poor family received death threats. What kind of person thinks it’s okay to threaten a persons family?
There were a few comments of support, but for the most part, everyone seemed to hate Jordan and think him the scum of the earth. Plenty of people took it upon themselves to self-righteously proclaim how they would never watch such drivel, which was ironic since they took the time to comment about it. A few of his friends took to social media to condemn the bullying and were met with bullying themselves. The media continued to release article after article and the bullying just got worse.
After a couple of days people calmed down and the news became today’s fish and chip paper so to speak. Now there are only a few stray comments here and there regarding the situation. This kind of public backlash is not new, it happens all the time, all over the world, but this was the first time I really paid attention to it and it scared me. The majority of people making these nasty comments had profile pictures of them with their children. These adults, worrying about cyber bullying and internet danger were hypocritically hiding behind their keyboards and offering their negative and dangerous view on a man that they knew very little about, just a small snippet of his life they saw on a TV show.
Do as I say, not as I do appears to be the policy in this case, or are these people even aware of how disgusting they are being? Some people pointed out how unnecessary all the negativity was, only to be shot down themselves with retorts that if someone puts themselves in the public eye they deserve this kind of slaughtering. I think that keeping our children safe begins with our own actions and while I don’t have to like or agree with everything I see, I do not think this behaviour is okay. Ever. Whether it’s online or in real life, especially when my hopes are for my children to not have to experience this themselves, but also to not be the bullies. Is it too much to ask for our negativity to be kept to ourselves?
Smiles and Sunshine