Pink Shirt Day: Have blogs become the new frontier for bullies?

Today is the 2nd Annual Pink Shirt Day around the World. The event is meant to help us recognize the negative impacts bullying can have on our children and society as a whole.

Pink Shirt Day was spearheaded by Christy Clark, talk show host for CKNW radio in Vancouver and former Minister of Education and Deputy Premier in the BC Government.

I’ve known Christy longer than I’m willing to admit, and when she called me last year to see if the City of Vancouver could help promote the 1st Annual Pink Shirt day, I said absolutely. The City of Vancouver was the first level of government to "officially" proclaim the day and special pink flags were raised on the various flag poles on the precincts. A number of cities across Metro Vancouver and Canada have followed suit and now the 2nd Annual Pink Shirt Day has become a Global event.

I know most of us think of bullying as something that takes place on the schoolyard, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bullying takes place everywhere, including your workplace, social events, and increasingly in cyberspace.

We’re all familiar with popular sites like Facebook and MySpace being used to bully kids. Unfortunately, anonymous postings of kids being gay, or sleeping around with the school hockey team have had dire consequences for some teens. This is serious stuff.

I believe the cyberworld is increasingly becoming the venue of choice for bullies. Is there any wonder why? The web has become a no-holds barred place for "free speech", no matter how nasty it gets. So in recognition of Pink Shirt Day, I’d like to open up a discussion about what I’m calling "blogger bullies"

I define blogger bullies as people who use blogs (either they set them up or they act as commenters) to denigrate, personally attack, demoralize or put down people they either don’t like or simply don’t agree with. You know who you are.

Take for example anonymous commenters on blogs. These types of blogger bullies gravitate toward blogs where the policy standards for posting comments is weak or non-existent…then they post their vitriol at will.

There are countless examples of blogger bullies who regularly post comments that are hurtful, libelous, personal in nature and that have lasting ramifications on individuals.

Unlike the black eye you might have received in the schoolyard, blog comments or posts can last an eternity. They sit on the internet for everyone to see and all too often that includes your employer, children, family and friends. For the person on the receiving end of these comments, they often feel helpless.

Blogger bullies are fully aware of the impacts their posts can have on people and of the "wild west" nature of this new frontier. Like any good schoolyard bully would, they love having no rules or restrictions that could impede their activities. In many respects, the blogosphere has become one big schoolyard without any parental or teacher supervision.

Just look at what happens when a blogger even hints that they might implement some policies or restrictions on the types of comments they will post. The blogger bullies swing into action and call the "offending" bloggers names like "anti-democratic" and "against free speech". They accuse them of having "hidden agendas" and threaten to encourage others to boycott the blog.

So I need to ask…when did the rules of our society change so radically that posting a nasty comment or blog about someone is now considered acceptable? Especially in light of the fact that many of the same blogger bullies posting this crap would never have the guts to make those nasty statements to your face. It’s really easy to have a lot of bravado when you can hide behind the anonymity of a blog comment isn’t it?

I’m all for free speech and creative thought. And as a blogger who’s had well over 40,000 of you visit in the first few months, I enjoy hearing from you regarding your perspective on civic issues. But as someone who was bullied for years myself, I know better than most the impact this type of behaviour can have on someone’s personal self-esteem. As a result, I for one don’t tolerate it on this blog.

I congratulate everyone at CKNW, in particular Christy Clark, for their efforts to help raise awareness regarding the impacts on bullying. As Christy told me…"it’s every small step that will get us toward our goal of eliminating bullying." This post is my small step.

And one more thing…the next time you see a blogger bully in your midst…make sure you call them on it!

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  • will remain a bully-free zone. We set out to have a respectful dialogue on civic affairs, and this doesn’t mean running down our contributors who donate their time to discuss these important topics. Blogs should set standards and abide by them.