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A bully by any other name ...

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 3:09 p.m. CDT

While browsing through the news section of Google I found myself getting lost in the comments sections of each article. Most of the people I found seemed like shady characters. They had pseudonyms like “Man from Miami” or “Snarf” to cover up their real identities. And from the way they were talking to each other, I could understand why they wouldn’t be proud to say who they were.

Avatar personas can take on a whole new level of nastiness when they unleash their negative thoughts on a comments section. The area should allow for discussion and give space for people to exercise their First Amendment; I agree that we need these spaces, but when people begin personally attacking someone for their beliefs, I think we’ve pushed the limit.

Let me see if I can understand the logic. First by placing an ambiguous photo as your profile you keep yourself safe from any backlash or embarrassment in public. Then you give yourself a snappy name to ensure that no one will ever know you secretly like to bash everyone else for not living up to your standards. Sounds like a winning plan for causing everyone grief and making no one want to listen to you.

Practical criticism has its merits, but no amount of disrespect being doled out while giving the critique is excusable. An adult may use the fanciest new derogatory words that he or she has learned throughout the years, and that still makes them as immature as a child yelling, “You’re an idiot. Go away!” And isn’t that what insults, and threats really come down to mean? When we push all the mean fluff away, all bullies try to convince others they don’t deserve to have an opinion. Bullies are going to try to keep themselves safe from being challenged. And since they can’t really stand up for themselves, they push people to the side and tell them to shut up.

The rage of the bully comes in many different flavors all of which are absolutely awful. I say this because the word “bully” used to seem silly to me. Hearing the word would make me think of grade school punks on playgrounds pushing people around. I would think of the cartoon-like monster child who walks around in leather jackets and says stuff like, “Hey, give me your lunch money.” All these outlandish cartoon representations come to mind when I think of the little word ... bully.

No wonder people decide to give themselves pseudonyms online. Using a fake name can give someone the false sense that they are not the little bully or the bad guy because the person behind the keyboard can distance him or herself from their Internet persona. Any bully would think this arrangement is foolproof, but the truth is, the way you act online is still the person you are inside. Someone thought up those cruel words, and it was the exact same person who is going to walk away from the computer screen and face the world outside.

Kathy Tun of Spring Valley is a junior at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. She can be reached in care of this newspaper at P.O. Box 340, Princeton, IL 61356.

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