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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cyber-bullying and its Many Ugly Forms

Remember back on the Balance Study Hall when I said I was "beating a dead otomo to death" when discussing side quests vs. story only? Well, it's another topic like that. Everyone and their Heckhound has written on it and I'm revisiting it out of necessity. There have been many, many more frequent squabbles popping up in our fair Spiral as more and more wizards are called from their home lands into the depths of Wizard City and beyond. Heather and Jessica have written on this topic today already, and I'm tossing in my two cents. (1(1 ). Cents are tossed. Sense has not been. And we're off.

WARNING: Lengthy sentence structures ahead. Definitions included for those not familiar with game jargon. Skip over the items inside of parentheses if you know the terms!

What is a cyber-bully? Webster defines cyber-bullying as, "the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (as a student) often done anonymously". Yes, it says that it's done anonymously. It can come in a much more direct form, though. I just witnessed it tonight on Twitter and have been seeing it crop up often. Playing a Role-Playing game (RPG: game in which textual descriptions are used to communicate a story--definition by me) and claiming to be participating in RP as an argument that you are not bullying when the subject on the table is murdering a Player Character (PC: Character played by a person in a game. Non-Player Character-NPC: a character placed into the game as a vendor, enemy, quest giver, etc. Lacks a player) is a crock of Krok droppings.  Talk about murdering Morganthe, what spells you'll use, how hard you'll hit, fine. There's no person behind her that will be upset. She is the wicked witch, right? Don't talk about PCs the same way you talk about NPCs because they are very much different entities.

This is but one form of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying never physically hurts a person. Every bit of it is taken psychologically and emotionally. Emotional abuse often leaves scars much deeper than physical injury ever could.  Direct bashing of someone through any means on the internet is cyber-bullying. Telling someone that they are worthless, making threats to them, smearing their name because of something you don't care for, anything over a social media outlet hit even harder than face-to-face bullying because the impact spreads so quickly through the Internet.  These outlets include (but are certainly not limited to) Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Because of the problems cropping up lately with cyber-bullying, I have come to the conclusion that children should not be allowed to play with social media outlets. Unfortunately, this inhibits those with positive things to say and forcibly removes them from the discussion. 

So, what can we do to stop it?  First, everyone should be adding a filter to the things that they say. If you wouldn't say it to your friend's grandmother, don't say it at all! I say to use your friend's grandmother as a filter because you're on your best behavior around her, as opposed to your own who you know how far you can push the envelope with.  Secondly, avoid large crowds of people united under one banner of negativity. Bandwagon leaping becomes much more common as the peer pressure mounts. Thirdly, everyone deserves a second chance. Or a third. People have the ability to change. Sometimes it's for the better, sometimes it's not. At least give them the benefit of a doubt. 

Those three little things are only suggestions. I can't claim to be an expert on psychological abuse, but I know enough about it to recognize it, call people on it, and try to stop it. Cyber-bullying is real (like salmonella).  It's not a myth (like Global Warming...I jest, I won't go there!). And unfortunately it's growing in our fair Spiral. If you were a new community member, would you stick around long if all you saw was fighting and chaos?  If this stuff doesn't stop there's going to be a major rift in the community, one that doesn't belong, because people will literally be picking sides between who's right and who's wrong. How can we call a splintered community the best community there is of any MMO? Think on these things, and try to pull your act together and stop acting uninformed and hiding behind excuses to justify your bullying.  Eventually the truth will come out, and when it does you'll be on the receiving end of many blocks, unfriends, and unfollows. 

I wanted to do something fun for my 100th post, and maybe I'll come up with something still, but this was a much more pressing matter than announcing that I'm in triple digits.

Your [Peeved] Friend Always,
John Lifeglen 

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