Cyberbullying, Social Media, and HTML

Hello French Fries!

     So I had an iPhone 5 for the past 3 years, and over the last couple months, the battery has been starting to fail and my klutziness caught up with me, so I was missing huge chunks out of my screen. Finally, last weekend, the battery fully gave up, and my phone no longer worked period. Consequently, I have finally given in and went to the AT&T store and upgraded to an iPhone 8, and boy has it been an adjustment. This thing has so many bells and whistles, plus it’s twice the size and weight of my previous phone. It barely fits in my pocket, and I wear men’s pants with the big pockets. However, it comes with a wireless charger. I just place the phone down on the charging pad, and it charges. I do not know what wizard came up this technology, nor am I familiar with the underlying scientific principles, but I’m educated guessing that the fact that I keep it next to my bed means I will wake up with cancer one day.

Before I wake up with cancer, let me give you my rant of the day: Most of you are probably familiar with the concepts of social networks and social media. If you are unfamiliar, social networks are sites that virtualize your socialization and communication, like Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter. If you need an example, you can access my profile on each of those sites by clicking the corresponding logo on the left-side menu bar on this site. These are similar to, but distinct from social media sites, where you can upload various forms of media. Think Youtube, Instagram, or Spotify. These social websites have revolutionized how we communicate and disseminate information. They have become a vital component of modern society’s personality and each individual’s public image.

Thanks to social media and social networks, dictatorships have been undermined, political revolutions have been coordinated, and public intrigue has become a target of espionage. Furthermore, the information users put out there can help make or break careers. I have had several job interviews where my interviewers have asked me questions based on information they have gleaned from my social profiles. My mother, who is now retired, was a prosecutor for many years. I remember showing her how to set up a Facebook profile so she could take a look at what information her defendants had posted on their profiles to use against them. The message I’m trying to present here is that social media and social networks are a powerful agent in the modern era.

While there is now denying the power of social media, it is not always used in a positive light. It has become tragically common place to here stories in the news of youthful users utilizing the power of social media in order to bully their peers. When social media is used in this regards, it is often termed cyberbullying. Much like bullying, the effects on victims of cyberbullying can be drastic: leading to depression, psychological illness, and on tragic occasion, suicide. There are some arguments I have heard that bullying is a form of youth bonding and growth, toughening up the victims to prepare them for the adult world. That is utter hogwash. In the 6th grade, I sat next to a girl in homeroom and math class who was a victim of bullying by some of the 8th graders, and she ended up taking her own life. Being a nerdy, Jewish, and at that age, undersized youth in the deep south, I was a target by the same bullies. I ended up taking martial arts classes in order to be able to defend myself and eventually broke one of my bully’s teeth in an episode of self defense which still haunts me. Now, just to date myself, this was before wifi networks were as developed, before smart phones existed, Myspace was just becoming popular and you were still required to have a college email address to join Facebook. It was much easier to just get up, and walk away after such confrontations.

Now, with the rise and popularity of social media and social networks, the hounds of bullying are no longer limited to the school yard and other places where kids congregate (my teeth breaking incident was at the neighborhood pool). Youths these days are connected 24/7, just like many of us millennials, and even older generations. The ease of access to social networks, and the faceless and continuous communication they provide, makes cyberbullying a 24/7 affair. This makes it harder to limit the scope of interactions where bullying can occur. Plus, it is unreasonable to prevent a youth from accessing social media since it is such an integral part of social growth nowadays. The rate of instances of cyberbullying are growing in a disturbing trend, and the relative anonymity that being behind a screen provides has increased the perception of security bullies have from being caught and outed as a bully. Since they are afforded such a relative anonymity, it’s a lot more difficult to out them and confront them in public like I did with my bully.

     Social networks are just that, a network of connected socializing individuals and entities. It is upon the users of such platforms to report instances of cyberbullying, and change the underlying culture. Unfortunately, it may appear to be hip or cool to cyberbully to some in today’s youth culture. Victims may be afraid to speak out since they can’t properly identify who exactly is the culprit. The best way to address any ignorance is through education. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” If these youths are old enough to bully, they are old enough to learn how this effects the psyche of their victim. I am a firm believer that education is the best way to address most issues related to ignorance. Furthermore, there needs to be a cultural change where users on a social network are intolerant of cyberbullies, and are encouraging victims to speak out and seek recourse.

I do not have a genuine answer on how to accomplish this, if you do, please share in the comments. I do know it was a lot easier when I was in grade school to train myself, and confront my bully when he next came around at me. It’s not a solution that worked for everyone, but it worked for me. Today, with the cyber culture that enables cyberbullying to exist, that is not an option many victims possess. So I encourage each of you French fries who have read thus far to help foster a more accepting culture that nurtures compassion and growth, providing a recourse and haven for victims, while aiming to educate would be bullies to the follies of the path they lead. Ultimately, this culture will have to seep down to the youth culture of today, which, like all youth cultures, can be rebellious, but the first step to stopping cyberbullying amongst youths is to not allow it amongst ourselves, and lead by example.

 

  Now to a lighter subject, my tech tip of the day: This one is a programming tip for people starting out in HTML and CSS. My fiancée has been building a website for her class at the local university to demonstrate some of her work, and she spent several hours trying to use CSS to create an enlarged input box for comments to be posted. If any of you are trying out html, and are relatively new to the language and are experiencing the same issues she was having, I suggest that instead of using an <input></input> tag, you use a <textarea></textarea> tag. Textarea tags are designed to be able to take in a big field of input, such as a comment section, while input tags are designed to take in smaller snippets of information, like a name or date. If you really want to get creative, you can tell text areas exactly how big you want them to be by adding a determinate amount of rows and columns they should include in the tag. For example: <textarea row=5, cols=20>. It is a much easier solution to getting a large input box then trying to modify an input tag with CSS.

 

I thank you French fries for bearing with me through an intense subject such as cyberbullying. If my tech tip inspired you to learning how to do code in html, or other languages, w3school is a great online and free resource to use as a starting point. Until next time…

…the ketchup is in the sauce.

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