author: quinn bell | a&c writer
Jeremy Davis / A slogan to live by.
Building for a better tomorrow.
Content Warning: This article uses some heavier language and deals with issues surrounding bullying, mental-health, and suicide, some of which may be triggering for some readers.
SaskTel has changed their old anti-bullying campaign slogan of “I am Stronger“ to “Be Kind Online.“ The slogan, followed by the message of “stop bullying,“ is currently all over the Riddell Centre.
I Am Stronger was a nice sentiment and certainly has its place in the campaign. The world is a mean place to be, making this a welcome reminder that we need to be ready to be strong, that we are already strong. There’s no reason, however, why it should be the job of the bullied and spit-on to be the better person. Yes, you are stronger than those senseless jerks online – and yes, they will always exist – but no one should have to withstand all the shit being hurled at them online. The onus is on the internet to shut up, to stop starting fights and ruining lives in the first place.
Let me get it out of the way right off the bat: I do not want to focus on the corporate white-washing that’s going on here, like I know some people are doing. Yes, SaskTel may be using the anti-bullying campaign in part to sell their services. They are also somewhat responsible for the bullying happening on their devices and internet, however, so they do have the right to speak out against it. Also, since the message is coming from a Crown corporation this time, rather than a multi-billion–dollar company (you know, that one saying ‘Let’s Talk’ every year), I’m keener to pay attention.
Ultimately, though, this is just not the time to be cynical. “Be Kind Online’ is an incredibly important message to hear, and I don’t think it’s responsible of us to rip on a campaign just because it’s coming from a company. Someone has to say it. We should be glad.
Bullying is shit. The idea that bullying is ever okay is unbelievable. The opinion that people just need to toughen up, to grin and bear it, is heartbreaking. Granted, it’s probably a natural sociological hangover from our earlier days. Banding together in tight-knit groups is essential for human survival and can be a really good thing, but we should seriously realize by now that we’re all on the same team, here. There is no reason – NO reason – to be mean online. No one is gaining anything; some lose everything. Online bullying kills.
She was 13 years old when she was slut-shamed online. She was 13 years old when her Ask.fm was flooded, daily, with insults. She was 13 years old when she felt like there was no other way out, like so-called friends and strangers alike were out to get her. She was 13 years old when she hanged herself.
Not a day goes by when we don’t think of you.
The consequences of online bullying affect everyone. Teachers move away. Families are ripped apart. Friends are traumatized. People lose their lives, just because someone out there thought that being an asshole online would make them feel good. And sometimes you can’t even escape it – your online presence follows you wherever you go, leading to constant exposure to bullying. This needs to stop.
This isn’t just a problem in grade school, don’t forget. You think it’s just kids that bully online? Kids might be cruel sometimes, but we don’t all miraculously become kinder when we turn 18. As if we adults are any better. The internet is full of people with nothing better to do than to comment degrading things online. Does it seriously bug you that much that his singing is a little off key at 2:46, so much so that you have to call him a faggot? What delusion drives you to send her that empty threat just because her make-up isn’t done up in just the way that gets you off? Have some decency. Let people express themselves. Stop for two-seconds and think, “How would I feel if they called me this?” Wow, imagine that; there’s room for empathy online.
Returning to the new slogan: “Be Kind Online“ is an important message to broadcast. The focus should be on the bullies to be better, not the bullied to toughen up. But does just hearing the words do enough? It’s nice that SaskTel and the university have written the message everywhere in Riddell. Is that enough? In Canadian law, cases of cyberbullying including criminal harassment, defamation, threats, and posting intimate images without consent can lead to jail time. That still doesn’t stop it from going on. That doesn’t always save lives.
We shouldn’t forget the old slogan, however.“‘I Am Stronger.“ Please, everyone, remember this. This goes first to the bullies: you are stronger than whatever damaged past brought you to this point of wanting to harm others. You are stronger than the urge you have to let out your frustration on a stranger who is just seeking love and approval, same as you. You are stronger than the social pressures, the racism, the homophobia of your community. You are strong enough to be a better person online and in the real world. Be Kind Online.
To everyone reading this who is being bullied: I am so, so sorry. I wish there were a way to shut it all off. Please, keep expressing yourself and doing what you love. It’s beautiful. You deserve to be heard. Please, be safe. Be kind to yourself and be open with those who love you. There is help out there, you are loved. You are stronger, but I’m sorry that you have to be.