Many are lucky because they’ve never experienced being bullied even once in their lives. I’d like to say I’m lucky, too, but I’m not.
I remember two particular incidents in college that somehow left a negative impression on me. The first one happened during an acting workshop, when someone told me that I should “learn how to dress better” because “your looks won’t matter if you don’t know how to dress up fashionably” (or something to that effect). I felt a bit bad when she told me that, but I let it pass because I didn’t want it to ruin my day. In truth, though, that statement stayed in my mind for a long time. I realize this only now, as I am writing this post.
Another incident that I cannot forget was when I had to go up onstage and talk to the whole school population. This was also in college, during our miting de avance for the student council elections. I can’t recall the question that was asked of me but I remember vividly that I wasn’t able to finish answering it because I was overcome with stage fright. The auditorium was quiet but I could hear some people laughing. After that incident, going up onstage in front of a large audience became a challenge for me.
There were also times when I realized some people were probably talking about me, saying. “Why are you his girlfriend when you’re ordinary looking? When you’re not “sosyal”? When you like wearing oversized men’s t-shirt?”
These experiences may not be as painful as the ones you or some of your relatives and friends have gone through, but they made such a big impact on me that I never forgot them. Although I’d like to believe I have overcome the fear, there are still times when I think about those moments. Those moments when I felt stupid and useless; when I felt that I could do no right.
When I became a teacher back in 1998, I didn’t know I would immediately transform into a totally different person. I guess it helped that my students completely put their trust in me. They believed in me and I’d like to think that they also looked up to me. They liked the stories I shared with them. They loved the notes and letters of encouragement I gave them. They accepted me and that was enough to push away the lingering pain of those college memories.
Slowly, I found myself going back to the limelight. I started hosting school programs. In fact, I became the school’s regular program host. Later on, I began training students to take over the hosting chores. And then I became one of the school’s public speaking trainers. I even trained students to become effective mass readers!
Eventually, I found myself busy moderating the school’s drama club and official campus publication. I trained and coached students. We joined contests and won. My students continued to trust me. And our relationship was not confined to the classroom and school. They became my good friends and I even call some of them my “anaks” (children).
This and many other beautiful experiences helped me overcome my fears. They still creep in from time to time, but I now know how to control them. I now know that I am stronger than them. Because I now know that “I am not what or who others say I am”. Only I know who I really am – and I’m fine with that.
Nowadays, bullying has gone up another level because of technology. Practically everyone has a mobile phone, a computer or laptop, and a tablet. Anyone can go online anytime, anywhere. So it’s easy to connect with people located on the opposite side of the world. While this has a lot of benefits, it also opens up avenues for bullying. Cyberbullying, that is.
On social media, you’ll see how fast people react to a photo or video even without knowing the subject and the facts surrounding the incident or event. If you post a photo of yourself wearing your favorite dress and some people find it unflattering, you’ll receive a lot of bashing. People will start calling you names. Ugly names. Names you don’t deserve to be called because….what did you do? You simply wanted to share a photo of yourself wearing your favorite outfit!
This is what cyberbullying is all about. And it’s not good. It can hurt people. It can cause people to lose faith in themselves. It can destroy people. It can end lives.
I tried to imagine what I would have felt if cyberbullying was already a thing back when I was in college and I did not like what my mind showed me. My reactions would have been different. I would have been devastated and broken. Imagine thousands – maybe even millions – of people from various parts of the world calling you names and saying ugly things about you online. What would you feel? What will you do? Will you survive?
Of course, you should fight back. You should learn to find your voice. You should be strong. But this is easier said than done. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen with just a click of the mouse.
This is the reason why Globe Telecom decided to come up with the #makeITSafePH campaign.
With 67 million Internet users (January 28, Hootsuite), the Philippines is one of the countries susceptible to cyberbullying. As such, it is essential that while we are aiming to become more digitally advanced, we also find effective ways to inform and educate Filipinos about the dangers that lurk in the online world. People need to realize that anyone can become a victim of cyberbullying and other online crimes such as cybersex and pornography.
#makeITSafePH intends to reach out to the most vulnerable population: the school children/students and their families. The first step is the facilitation of the Digital Thumbprint Program or DTP, which is a series of workshops where students can learn everything about proper online etiquette and how technology can affect their social activities. DTP will also serve as a venue for students to learn how to use technology for positive gains, particularly for achieving their goals.
Hopefully, schools here in Cagayan de Oro will work hand-in-hand with Globe in carrying out the #makeITSafePH campaign. If we are to start fighting against cyberbullying and other cybercrimes, this is the right way to go.
Being bullied, whether on or offline, is not something that can simply be pushed aside. It is something you and I – and everybody else – has to deal with every single day of our lives. Every minute, every second of every day, someone somewhere in the world is being bullied. Even if we do not know him or her, we owe it to ourselves to do something about it.
If you’ve been bullied or are being bullied, find strength in the thought that people are fighting for you. Find strength in the reality that you are unique; no one else is like you. Therefore, nobody has the right to call you what you are not. Especially because you are not – and will never be – who they say you are. You are you and you are special. Keep that in mind always.
Here’s a video of a song that has affected me in more ways than I ever imagined it would. I have made it my anthem. You can make it yours, too.
(This is Me official lyric video from YouTube.)
(Images from Pixabay and Unsplash. Posters created using Adobe Spark.)