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An Essay by Samantha R. Selman
My Aunt: the Cyber-Bully
My over-all experience with the social-networking site Facebook had been positive until a few weeks ago, when a few Facebook users began bullying me because of my political beliefs. The attacks began about a week after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh criticized Miss Sandra Fluke; however, my posts were not concerned with his opinions, nor that of Miss Fluke. I simply posted a photo (which has been on the internet for some time) with a picture of Rush Limbaugh and a picture of “Fat Bastard” from the movie Austin Powers. The picture was retrieved from a website called totallylookslike.com. The photo was not meant to offend anyone; it was not even meant to be a political statement. Nonetheless, I was characterized as a “Liberal” with a “low IQ”. I was characterized as an “idiot” and a “bigot”. I was accused of leading a “Liberal lifestyle”. I was accused of carrying out a personal attack on Mr. Limbaugh. Most of these comments were made by people I had trusted all my young life, so they were particularly hurtful. Did I mention that I am fourteen years of age? I told myself that the comments would cease in a few days. However, as bullies usually do, they persisted and became progressively worse. They went as far as to insult my family and when I blocked them from commenting on my wall, they began commenting on my blog. Please note, my blog does not concern politics; the web log is based solely on web design and development. These people, who are well into their forties and fifties, spent a lot of time attacking and bullying me. My own aunt made the following comment: “Liberals cannot argue a case on its merits, so they go on the personal attack. I believe they generally have a low IQ, a liberal lifestyle or both. Liberals will say or do anything to rationalize their behavior.” If my aunt felt offended by the picture, she could have simply told me without name-calling and bullying. I didn’t understand why she was characterizing me as a “Liberal”, and especially one with a low IQ. I then received a comment from a man I have never met before, saying “If you start losing an argument, switch to the personal attack”. This was surprising; I wasn’t trying to argue with anyone. I am not a Liberal, nor do I lead a Liberal lifestyle. Furthermore, I don’t believe I have a low IQ. Finally, a third person commented, backing the adults who were bullying me. “You called it properly! That’s good calling! Keep up the good work!” he said. I could not believe this. Three adults were attacking a fourteen year old girl. Something wasn’t right with this. Looking back, I find these comments particularly subtle. I mentioned that they went as far as to insult my family. They compared my father to “Fat Bastard”, which I did not understand. My father wasn’t the one who posted this picture. My father doesn’t even know you, and for that matter, you don’t know him. My mother has been called an “atheist” countless times. I assure you this is a vicious lie. Pick on me, if you must; but please do not insult my family. I blocked the three people who commented. I did not take kindly to being called a stupid Liberal, my father being compared to “Fat Bastard”, and my mother being called an atheist. I thought the harassment was over. I was wrong. My blog was then targeted. The same man who accused me of being on the “personal attack” posted the following comment on my blog. I was discussing how to add a “Follow on Twitter” button to your site and this is what he said: “I really don’t think you know what you are talking about. You are fourteen and you think you’re already such an adult that you can force your beliefs on others and think its okay. You are an idiot and a bigot. Give up.”
My Aunt: the Cyber-Bully Why was this man attacking me like this? What did he want me to “give up”? Why is he calling me an idiot and a bigot? How does he know what I think? At this moment, I was feeling surprised, humiliated, hurt, offended and hunted. Since he could no longer use the social networking site to harass me, he decided to use the one thing he wasn’t blocked from. Note: this man claims he was either a navy seal or a member of the Air Force in the past, and yet he is harassing a fourteen year old girl. What is wrong with this picture? I assure you that I would never try to force my opinions on anyone and I would never attack someone with an opinion that was different from mine. These people continue to attack me, and I fear they will become increasingly worse after writing this essay. I do not understand why any coherent adult would waste time attacking a girl who barely knows what the word “bigot” means. I am open to anyone’s opinion. I listen to both MSNBC and Fox news. I am not a bigot. I don’t believe I am an idiot. I am not liberal. I have tried expressing these things to them, but they refuse to listen. Apart from my parents, no one has tried to help me. No one has tried to stop the harassment. So now, I must write this essay in hopes that these people will read it and stop pursuing me. The below is an excerpt from the Constitution of the United States of America: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. This is the first amendment. This is what grants every American their right to free speech. I am a proud citizen of this country and yet I am being bullied for using my right to free speech. It isn’t right, it isn’t lawful, and it isn’t moral. I feel the picture was in no way a personal attack, nor was it meant to be taken as such. These people are badgering me for a picture I did not create, did not send to them, and did not want to be taken seriously. I am an American and I have the right to free speech, and it isn’t their right to take my freedoms away, even if I am a stupid Liberal. When I joined Facebook some time in early 2011, I re-united with several of my past classmates. One of them was going through several stressful situations. Once, she posted a picture from the satirical website atheist.com. Though she meant for the picture to be a joke, she was rebuked harshly. She was criticized and reprehended. She was forced to terminate her account, and after a month she re-joined, wary of ever putting anything “satirical” on her wall. My father was also cyber-bullied because of pictures similar to the one I posted. In short, I am not the first of my family and friends to be “cyberbullied”. My parents have been cyber-bullied, my best friend has been bullied online, and many acquaintances have been bullied online. It stops with me. Often these kind of attacks are made by teenagers toward other teenagers, or adults toward other adults. My case is different in the respect that there are adults, in their forties and fifties, bullying me, a fourteen year old teenager. They have been relentless in their attempts to make me feel insignificant. They have made me feel like a lesser person. However, I refuse to “give up” anything. With this essay, I am attempting to expose those who are intimidating me, as well as attempting to inspire those who are being mistreated to speak up. Never let another person make you feel insignificant. No one can take away your rights regardless of your gender, sexuality, income, political party, intellect, ethnicity, appearance, religion or age. And if they attempt to take away your rights or demean you, call them on it. Defend yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be treated like you’re insignificant.
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