A generation of bullies

Controversy is something we have dealt with at Murray State from time to time, and the recent controversy over parody twitter accounts is something that needs to be discussed in an open and public manner. We would like to take this opportunity to make a broader point about how we all conduct ourselves in the 21st century.

The @MurrayAsian account wasn’t a stand-alone case – there are too many too mention here and they are simply the end result of a young adult culture in this country that thrives on making other people feel bad about who they are, how they look, or what they do. We’ve all been to the People of Wal-Mart website.

We’ve all had a chuckle here or there at someone else’s expense, and we’ve all felt a bit better about ourselves because of it.

Our generation’s culture has developed around the Internet – around the social network and around the smart phone. We have become a generation that shares everything with everyone.

We Instagram pictures of the food we eat. We tweet about professors we don’t like. We post pictures of a trip to the mall on Facebook. We pin recipes to Pinterest. Some of us still repost those terrible chain letters from a decade ago on MySpace.

The point we are trying to drive home here is that sharing things we see or think has become second-nature to most of us.

We do it without thinking. We say mean, vile, nasty things about one another online without a second thought. We take pictures of people we think others will find funny and upload them to the Internet, and, in doing so, we forget something – something big.

These are people we are laughing at. These are people who we are putting down. These are people that we are tweeting about and making Facebook statuses about and taking pictures of without their knowledge. These are living, breathing human beings with feelings, with families, with friends.

We have become a generation of bullies.

We talk a good game when it’s anti-bullying week. We talk about how much we hate bullying and about how wrong it is to bully.

But the truth is we love it. We love the power that comes from making someone else feel like they are worth less than we are. It is a thrill that each one of us enjoys, whether we want to admit it or not. It is something that we all have to face if we want to change it.

We are not saying that joking around is not acceptable or that we don’t want anyone to have a good laugh here or there. What we are saying is that there is a line that needs to be clear and doesn’t need to be crossed. Joking in good fun is a hell of a lot different than putting someone down and calling it funny.

We are not saying that criticism is not warranted of others, either. But we are saying that criticism needs to be constructive, not destructive.

We also are not saying those who spout racist, bigoted or ignorant things need to be stopped from saying them. We believe every person in this country has the right of free speech by virtue of birth and that a person’s right to free speech should not be abridged.

But we do believe that hateful and bigoted speech should be called out for what it is – wrong. Those who express this kind of hatefulness against others should be publicly called out for what they’re doing and publicly shamed for it.

We’d like to ask the person or persons behind these accounts, like the @MurrayAsian account if that’s how he or she would like Murray State to be seen by our foreign student population? What about the city of Murray by our neighboring cities, or our University by our sister universities? What about our country by the foreign students that come here? Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

But we at the paper are not free of blame. Only last week, we published an article that included some of the more controversial Twitter accounts under a headline describing them as fun. While regrettable, we promptly removed the story from TheNews.org and have refocused our efforts on broadening how we report these issues and how they really impact the readers.

We need to start following the “Golden Rule” we all learned in Elementary School – treat others as you’d like to be treated. That really shouldn’t be something we have to learn again at the university level, but apparently it’s a lesson that our generation never really picked up on.

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.