It’s hard to be a statistic.
I never thought that I would be bullied as an adult, but I have. I thought once I left school—the mosh pit of bullying—I was home free. Turns out home wasn’t as safe as I imagined.
My neighbor and I had become pretty close after he moved in at the beginning of the year. We would hang out every day, go grab dinner or, as his wife called it, go on a “man-date” to the movies. Everything was cool for a while, even though I heard him tell how he yelled at the old man down the street for drinking in the neighborhood, or how he threatened a woman because her cat used his yard as a litter box. It wasn’t until he turned on me that I realized how cold he could be.
I am a small guy: short, thin, non-descript. I have been small all my life, but it was throughout middle and high school that this became a justification for others to pick on me. That’s what we called it, “picking” on someone. To the extent that it occurred then, today, we would call it bullying.
When I would ride the school bus, the older students would pick on me, calling me names that cut deeper than any knife because those scars stayed with me. I was teased for being short, I was teased for being un-athletic and I was teased because I was bookish and nerdy.
Like most of us who were teased for being a nerd, we now embrace that ideal. Nerdy glasses adorn our faces and heavy book-bags hang from our shoulders. The latest technology comes easy to us. I say us, because national statistics show that one in three teens reported being bullied while in school. Bullying can include anything from verbal and physical abuse to spreading rumors or yelling obscenities or other derogatory remarks at a person based on his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other factors.
My neighbor was the same bully that used to torment me in school. He was the prototype of those kids who probably didn’t know any better, but he was a 50-year-old, biker-sized grown-man, who should have known better. He called himself an “alpha male” but it really boiled down to the fact that he was a mean ass. I started seeing how he treated others and was thankful that I wasn’t one of them– until I was one of them.
My neighbor had sent me a nasty text that I didn’t understand. This was the day that it all fell into place. His personality shown through and I was the victim–once again. He had accused me of banging on his windows, which was funny considering I was inside my own house, playing a video game. I walked next door and he insisted that I was banging on his windows, I said, “Whatever dude” and walked back home.
When he used his phone to text me it became a classic example of a newer trend in bullying: cyber bullying. High school students do it. A recent report on the Cyber bullying.org website shows that almost 80 percent of high school students are victims of cyber bullying. Some students shrug it off; others take their lives.
A new law in Florida tightens the restrictions on cyber bullying and makes it easier to persecute perpetrators of cyber bullying, bullying and stalking. The problem with this and other laws is that they tend to focus on the school-aged students. They don’t focus on others who are at the hands of bullies.
I constantly watch nasty commentary fly on social media between people and see how many of the messages can be construed as bullying. I have even seen members of my own family participate in such actions to the point that I have blocked them or removed them from my news feeds.
Even our politicians—particularly those representing politician– participate in bullying. The debates tonight will be interesting, given the nature of political commentary, not just by the politicians but the news commentators as well.
It’s a pretty sad affair to think that bullying of any nature is still going on, even when I have been out of school for more years than most VSU students have been alive. When Shambree Wartel wrote last week in the editorial on how childhood is being lost to the speed of technology, and how we, as college students can set an example for our younger siblings to use technology correctly, I realized that we have another example to set: one that shows bullying of any nature is unacceptable.
I didn’t speak to my neighbor for several days because I was so angry. Day after day, items that he borrowed would show up on my doorsteps. He would even yell things at me– calling me names, threatening me from the safety of his own yard. Finally, he moved out this weekend, but not before he did his last act of bullying by causing damage to my home.
I realize that the faces may change, but the act of bullying remains constant. You would think that those childish and mean-spirited actions would go away after high school, but I know that some people will always be bullies, even if they are disguising themselves as friends.