Tuesday, March 30, 2010

State of Meanness...

I think it's in Ecclesiastes - the passage about "there's nothing new under the sun." It's all been done before. Humans are human, no matter from which generation they stem or how much technology surrounds them.

Kids are mean. I'm no psychologist, but I'd speculate they are mean because so few of them know any other way to make themselves feel superior. And don't we all like to feel superior? Even some adults find themselves caught in a trap of pointing out the flaws of the people around them to make themselves feel better. I've been the brunt of it, no doubt. I'm sure we all have at some point.

This morning's Today Show had a segment about a young girl - 15 years old, I think - who committed suicide after being slammed by insults and threats from a group of young people in her school. The behavior all started with one girl becoming jealous of the attention given to the beautiful high school student by a popular football player. And I guess a small band wagon from the peanut gallery tagged along. They slammed her on facebook and through text messages. The young girl's parents had been to the school advocating for their daughter but to no avail. She's now dead.

I can remember those type issues and feelings. While I lived in Zachary, Louisiana, I experienced some taunting and teasing, but none to the extent to which this poor girl suffered. I think back on those days when I had no clue who I was, what I believed, or if anyone in the whole wide world liked me. On top of all that, I had zits that make up couldn't hide and bad hair days. I also remember a little bit of it in high school - this one guy I dated that was so ugly to me causing me one night to spill an entire soft drink on myself (by hitting the bottom of the cup as I turned it up for a drink) and him laughing hysterically afterwards. And there was this girl who kept threatening to beat me up in the K-Mart parking lot for no apparent reason. So I guess the meanness has always been alive and well.

I think the biggest generational difference is this: kids don't have to have the courage to do or say anything anymore. They text all the stuff that in generations before we would think but dared not say aloud. They bash on facebook where they know they can be encouraged and surrounded by other people and their comments. They are able to communicate in ways so beyond what my communication methods were just a short fifteen years ago. Back then, we could write a note by hand on a piece of paper or we could call on a land line telephone. That was it. And if you called, the person you were trying to reach might not ever have a clue you had phoned them unless they actually answered; answering machines were still not a standard staple in the household then, and caller ID was a gleam in the eye of a now wealthy American.

I must say that I am thankful to have been a teenager in a much simpler time. Sure, I moped around on a Thursday night wondering why so-and-so hadn't called me yet when the truth of the matter was that he had probably tried to call while I was in the shower and I never even realized it. Now days, these kids know every detail of every day of their lives - who called, what time, what cell tower the phone call bounced off of to get to them. These are amazing times we live in, but they are just as frightening as they are amazing.

Funny thing is that David already wants a cell phone. Absolutely ain't gonna happen. There's no way I'm gonna put such a powerful tool of communication in his hands at such an early age. I think it's time for America to take a little of this power away from these kids and get them back down to reality. Back down to a place where there was a face behind every conversation had and every word communicated. Just a thought...


Jack [not real name] said...

I agree entrely. My son has mild aspergers and is an easy target for little brats with nothing better to do than wind him up. I have no idea how I will get him though high school.

carrie said...

I think this story is so sad. It makes me angry that the school didn't do more. I agree with the cell phone issue. Todd has not asked for one, thankfully. I was just thinking the other day what age I felt was appropriate. Still thinking on that one!