Social media is a huge aspect of my life as it is for many others, and sometimes it can consume us without us even realising. Memes have become a very popular way of communicating with others on all platforms and, in particular, on Facebook.
I want to share a story that I am not proud of, but feel the need to share because it was a simple mistake a lot of people make every day, without realising the impact it may have on others.
A few months ago, a public Facebook page posted a meme of the Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller. They used a photo of him from when he was on the show and a photo since he had finished the show. In one photo it showed him looking muscular and in the other it showed him having put on a bit of weight.
The caption above the two photos said: "When you break out of prison and find out about McDonald's monopoly". When I initially saw this, I have to admit I thought it was a bit funny, along with the hundreds of thousands of other people who liked the photo, but it wasn't actually a laughing matter.
Wentworth Miller subsequently saw the post and publicly shared how much this act of cyber bullying affected him.
He explained that the weight gain had come from years of suffering depression. My heart dropped.
How could I have been a part of the embarrassment he was feeling? Something as small as liking a photo can cause a lot of pain to others.
My advice to other social media users is to always think about how your actions are going to affect the person who is being made fun of or joked about. Think about how you would feel if that were to happen to you. Even if you may think the person won't ever see it, maybe they will - and in this case they did.
- Georgia Burt is a ZM Night Show host
Where to get help:
• In an emergency: call 111
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633, or text 234 (available 24/7) or firstname.lastname@example.org or live chat (between 7pm and 11pm) http://livechat.youthline.co.nz/mibew/chat?locale=en&style=youthline
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 (weekdays 11am to 5pm)
• NetSafe: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), www.theorb.org.nz
How parents can stop cyberbullying:
• Understand where your kids are going online, what they are doing and who they are talking to.
• Spend time in your child's online world.
• Accept and acknowledge how important technology is to your child.
• Don't ask your child if they're being cyberbullied. Use their language - have they seen mean texts circulating, humiliating photos or messages on others' Facebook walls?
• Don't downplay covert bullying. Don't dismiss it saying "don't worry ... it doesn't matter if you've been left out" or "just ignore the bullying". This tells the child that you don't take their situation seriously and can even convey that it's normal for others to treat them this way.
• Make it clear cyberbullying will not result in phone or internet access being taken away. Discuss this with your child and reassure them that's not how you'll deal with it.
• Teach your kids how to be good cyber citizens before they are in Year 4, when they may begin to venture online.
• Much of cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is learned behaviour. Look at what behaviours you're modelling to your kids. Is sarcasm and point-scoring part of your family culture?
• Don't contact the other child but tell the school principal.