Today in Canada marks “Pink Shirt Day” a movement started several years ago by some school children to take a stand against a friend who had been bullied for wearing a pink t-shirt. Now, Canadians all over the country (and the world) wear a pink shirt to stand together to help spread the message that kindness and acceptance are the building blocks of our country, not ignorance and abuse.
Bullying is like a heavy black smoke, it changes its forms and its ways of getting inside people’s minds and hearts. It starts in playgrounds and school halls and with the advancement of technology it has clouded its way into our homes and social media networks and it’s almost becoming something that feels unbeatable at times, that we will find abusive comments, mockery, hurt and hate under every rock and in every message board.
When I was younger I was bullied a lot. For how I looked, for how I acted, for what I was and for what I wasn’t. There wasn’t no motive on my part, I wanted more than anything to be invisible to the other boys that were spitting at me, pushing me, hurting me. They saw in me a target without defense and for a long time I let them take over. I let them steal from me, I let them take my money, my belongings, and my happiness. But to me, these bullies weren’t the ones that hurt the most. They had a face and names and I could see them, even though it really hurt. The bullies and people that hurt the most were the online ones, the ones with no names or faces, those ones who feverishly type comments that have no other motive than to hurt and ridicule.
The internet is a powerful place, it is one of opportunity and of connection. We can build lives on it, and some including myself, have. We use it to build our careers and relationships, to connect with like minded friends and peers, to create and share work with people all over the world. We also use it as a platform, for whatever message we believe in. Most of us, at least I like to think, use it for good. But some find it easy to use these platforms to hide behind anonymity and to be the black smoke in other people’s lives.
Bullying, abuse, hatred…these aren’t just words or concepts, they’re real and emotional experiences that happen every single day and they rob people, good people, of the opportunity to be who they are and it robs us all of seeing what people can truly achieve when they feel loved and supported.
When we feel neglected or ridiculed, we’re less likely to want to put ourselves out there to the world, we become turtles with a shell around us that we can retreat into and hide away from the world. These negative actions though, shouldn’t define our internet culture. Community gives back what is put into it, if our community can continue to foster support for our differences, embrace each other for our unique views, talents, gifts and abilities and become a space where people of all backgrounds can share without fear of rejection or embarrassment I think we can create a culture of incredible power.
Fear, hatred and ignorance can find us wherever we are. It can find us at work, in our schools, in our homes and in our minds. But, love and compassion, understanding and acceptance can also be found all around us, in our homes and work, school and minds if we are able to stand together and allow those to grow stronger. I challenge you to stand together with so many other people who are searching for positivity, with your arms and hearts open and help create a kind environment either on or offline. It takes nothing to build up another person, just support and kindness.
Let’s make bullying a thing of the past.