Redefining the modern bully

Emma Peterson, Staff Writer

We’re taught to think bullying is standing around in a circle, chanting “fight, fight, fight!” as two people argue. The bully will say something like, “Parking lot. After school. I’ll kick your teeth in.” But in reality, the experience is much different. Not all bullying leaves a scar on the outside; bullies often harass others under the radar.

The only way to recognize bullying today is to cue in on sarcastic tones, body language, and word choice. Unfortunately, the way that words are said can be offensive, but when said in a different vocal tone, they can seem harmless––thus bullies are able to get away with emotional abuse. For example, a student looks over at his friend’s test score and says, “Nice! Looks like you really studied.” In one situation, this could seem like a compliment, but in a sarcastic tone, this could be offensive.

High school students are actually more sensitive than people are willing to admit. If a student says to his guy friend, “Dude, your shirt is extremely gay,” the person making the comment may not see it as offensive, but the friend might be highly offended because he actually likes his shirt. Although, simply because he is a man, our society and culture do not allow him to show that emotion, so instead of confronting him might say something like, “shut up, man,” and play it off like it was no big deal.

In society, women have frequently been seen as inferior to men, but that’s nothing to sarcastically poke fun at. “Make me a sandwich” is not an appropriate thing to say to a woman. Although the woman may not react by laughing it off or even encouraging the joke, it really isn’t something that is funny––it’s highly disrespectful and sexist. Yes, people might joke about sexism in a light way, but once it’s put into perspective, words can cut and leave scars that only the victims can see and feel.

Movies that take place in a high school setting usually have bullying. Older movies follow this pattern as well, but they aren’t up to date with new technological advances. Cyberbullying is a large threat the teen generation faces today––the difficulty is how to tell whether or not what someone is saying should be considered bullying. If people aren’t face to face, and there is no way to tell their vocal tone, words on a page can often be taken the wrong way.

Facebook messages, Formspring pages, and anonymous questions allow bullies to hide behind the face of a computer screen. They don’t have to see the reaction of the person or feel empathy; simply put, they get the rush of bullying without the consequences. The results of those targeted include low self esteem, depression/anxiety, and even suicide.

People don’t take bullying seriously, but as suicide is the third leading killer in teenagers, something needs to be done about it. Bullying is not acceptable in any way or form; nothing makes it okay, whether it be online, through texting, or in person. Start noticing when people are being bullies, start asking questions, and stop the ignorance.