Boyd says that teens don’t always think that what parents think of bullying is bullying. They saw gossip and rumors differently than bullying. “Unlike bullying, which presumes a victim and a perpetrator, referring to conflict as drama allows teens to distance themselves from any emotional costs associated with what’s happening” (Boyd, 138).
Is online shaming bullying? Maybe. We like to think of bullying as the big kid punching the little kid, using his power to hurt or harm the little guy. In cyber bullying, it’s not the physical size of the bully compared to the victim, but the power of the internet, which is near infinite. You can’t be punched online, but you can be hurt in other ways. It’s the difference between being punched in the gut every day, or being punched in the gut so hard that it hurts everyday, the latter being the power of the internet.
The shaming that Ronson talks about is comparable to this. It’s meant to hurt people, and even if the shaming is only one instance, like the day Sacco sent her tweet, it leaves a lasting impact.
The comparison I’m trying to make, then, is that people see partaking in online shaming, not as bullying, but as something else. Do they see it as drama? Gossip? Rumors?
In my experience, it’s drama. I’ve never personally tweeted at someone and called them an idiot or any other bad name in order to hurt them, but I have talked about it. I’ve said “wow, how can he have said that?” just like I was talking about the news. “I can’t believe that happened. That’s terrible”. In my mind, it’s commenting on an event, not sending a message to the person. It’s the same with spreading rumors or discussing drama–it’s different than insulting the victim to their face. (Although I still think that spreading rumors is morally wrong).
Boyd says that parents define all of that as bullying, but teens make the distinction in order to excuse their actions. Is there a similar distinction online? Is contributing to a hashtag or subtweeting someone the same as insulting them directly, or is there an actual difference? And are the people who thinks there is a difference just making excuses?
I personally find myself defending more people online than criticising people. I’ve learned over time that context is especially important online and not to take headlines and trending hashtags at face value. I’ve learned to be critical of actions, not people. Sacco isn’t a racist, but her tweet was a bad idea. Donald Trump isn’t an idiot, but he’s being hypocritical in bombing Syria. Things like that.