By Nickole Saborío – Student of General Studies
Do you use hateful speech on social media? Over the years, social networks have become a platform to raise awareness about different situations that happen around the world and that several telecasts or newspapers do not want to mention. As an example, there is the case of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish sixteen-year-old girl who has traveled overseas to educate others about the powerful impact of climate change. Greta has become a well-known figure thanks to the social networks that she uses to spread her message, and multiple teenagers have been so touched and inspired for her speech that they started taking action as well.
However, social networks also have a dark side. By posting content on these platforms, people are exposing themselves to receive hate comments and even threats. That can be seen clearly in the case of Greta; although she has dropped out high school to dedicate her life to raise awareness about climate change, she has received a lot of hate on social media. These comments are not directed exclusively towards the message she wants to deliver, but also to her physical appearance, social status, country of origin, and even cognitive disability. Through the internet, several jokes and memes can be observed regarding her facial expressions and repetitive speech, but what haters do not know is that she has autism, and those aspects are part of that condition. Now, autism has become a "joke" that affects not only Greta but also all the people who have fought for the rights of this population.
Another example of the abysmal consequences that cyberbullying can cause is the case of Channing Smith, the sixteen-year-old boy who committed suicide after being bullied online for his sexual orientation. Channing trusted the wrong people and sent them some screenshots of a conversation he was having with another boy. Unfortunately, they published the conversation on Instagram and Snapchat. Channing felt so betrayed and hurt that he decided to end his life. The saddest part is that he called the girl who posted the screenshot and told her that he was going to kill himself, but she did nothing to avoid it or to warn others about it. This unfortunate situation is a clear example that "jokes" and "humor" are not always inoffensive, and that they can actually hurt people. There are certain issues that people should never joke about because they can destroy people's integrity in many ways.
The examples mentioned in this article talk about very young and vulnerable people who were attacked for no reason. On the one hand, Greta has managed to overcome all those frivolous comments because she has the support of her parents and friends. On the other hand, Channing felt that he could not count on anyone in the world and decided to end his life. For that reason, it is essential to guide parents on how to properly communicate with their kids to create an environment of mutual trust. And not only parents should be trained but also teachers: they should be aware of how to act in case of cyberbullying. Finally, it is important to tackle the roots of the problem, therefore, teenagers should be instructed about the lethal consequences that cyberbullying can have on someone else's life.