Linda Hall: Stung by social media barbs

By Linda Hall

I had a tiny taste of cyber bullying this week. Actually it wasn't really bullying it was a comment on Twitter about me that made me mad.

It also made me think about how people who are bullied must feel. These days Facebook plays a huge part in most teenagers' lives. If they are not texting they are on Facebook. It's where they go to find out what everyone else is up to. To find nasty comments about themselves must be devastating for them.

I know how I felt when I saw the tweet.

As books editor for Hawke's Bay Today I've written hundreds of reviews and interviewed and written about numerous authors.

Feedback is minimal and what little I do get is positive.

However, as assistant editor I have been writing editorials and this is my third grapevine column. I have had loads of feedback. Texts to the editor, emails and phone calls. It's fantastic. Not all of it is positive, of course, and the first time I got an email slashing me to bits I was rather taken aback.

But on reflection I thought if I can have my say, so can he. He didn't like what I wrote but what a world it would be if we all have the same thoughts. Boring.

And his email was private. It was addressed to me, for my eyes only.

The tweet I came across, however, is right out there in the public eye for all and sundry to read. It said "Old people talking technology with readers, always a funny read" and had the link to the column I wrote a few weeks back about swipe and go cards.

Old... OLD... I am not old, I shouted at the computer. My fingers poised over the keyboard as I sat there thinking of a reply. How do they even know how old I am, I fumed.

I was all set to write a scathing reply, then I paused. My twitter account is under Hawke's Bay Today. I put my laptop, none too gently, beside me on the couch and stomped into the kitchen.

Honestly, I couldn't get that comment out of my head. Old... just what is old, I was muttering to myself. Old people don't go to pump classes at Aspyre Fitness, old people don't bike for miles. I strode around the house in a right huff for about half an hour. Then I started telling myself off.

Get a grip, Linda... it's one comment. The person that wrote that doesn't even know you.

That's when I starting thinking about cyber bullying. It must be absolutely horrible for anyone, but in particular teens whose lives revolve around social media, reading nasty comments posted about them and knowing all their Facebook friends are reading it as well and probably laughing at them.

I thank goodness Facebook wasn't around when my children were teens.

One of my daughters had a friend who was either very nice or very mean. You never knew from one day to the next if they were friends or foes. There would be phone calls and tears. But it was between them and their small group of friends. It wasn't out there for the entire school to read about on Facebook.

How to stop it? Monitor your teenagers' Facebook page. Easier said than done, I know. Talk, talk and talk to your children.

I certainly don't have all the answers but perhaps the first step is to teach them not to reply in anger.

Walk away, calm down and perhaps recite this little ditty: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

FOOTNOTE: I'm not old.

Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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