I’ve seen a lot of TikTokers on this board and on the app justify mobbing people online and saying stuff like “leave” and “no ” and explicitly admit to bullying for two reasons.
- “We’re just telling jokes.”
- We struggle with mental health issues, and this is us blowing off steam.
The last one I understand. I think Gen-Z is the brunt of a lot of the stresses and weight of the world, and I respect their struggles and the insane amount of pressure on them.
I want to be very clear, though, if you have mental health problems. If you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder. You are doing real, palpable harm to yourself if you harass people online.
And, I think people have different definitions of “harassment,” but what I mean in this case and what’s happening right now on byte is, saying something negative to someone or a group of people that is a part of a larger crowd saying the same thing.
- K. Leave
- The “fairies” thing
- that meme that’s a mess of emojis shuffled into some quote.
- Yes (you might not think about this as harrassment, but think about a second what kind of message is being sent to someone seeing this 100 times. Is saying “yes” in this way actually affirmative?)
How Does Harassment Hurt You?
This is how your brains work. Draw for yourself a triangle and at each point you have “Thoughts,” “Feelings,” and “Actions.”
Each point in this triangle feeds into each other. A negative thought can lead to a negative emotion. A positive action can lead to a positive thought.
So, think about studying for a test. If it’s the week before the test, and you’re in a miserable mood (feeling), you are more likely to tell yourself that you won’t pass the test (thought) and so you don’t study for the test (action).
Or, it’s after school and you see a student drop all of their books so you walk over and help them out (action) they thank you, and you feel pride (feelings) and then you think to yourself you’re a good person.
Something that’s important in both of these stories is that it’s really easy for things to spiral into one direction or the other. If you feel like crap, you don’t study, you fail the test and then you feel worse about yourself. If help someone, they make you feel good, they make you feel good thoughts and positive energy carries you to when you get home, and you help out somewhere else there.
Once you get into one spiral or the other, it’s really hard to get out of that mentality. And also, you’re entitled to be in a bad mood. There’s no such thing as a "bad emotion, only negative emotions. because the word “bad” is about performance (a “bad” hammer can’t nail anything down) and sometimes it’s really helpful for our brains to feel bad about things. It helps us heal and connect with each other. When your friend is sad because their pet died, you feel sad for them and that helps you connect with each other and it helps both of you.
So “negative” emotions aren’t the problem, it’s just when there is too much of the bad emotions. It’s like driving a car, going a little fast or a little slow isn’t bad. But if you go too fast or too slow, that’s the problem.
So harassing people online. It’s an example of what psychologists call “digital self harm.” You know how some people you might know cut themselves to feel better? Harassing people online is a similar type of thing, only it’s online.
If you feel bad, and then you willfully say something to hurt someone online - even if it’s a joke - you’re doing a harmful thing (action) which makes you have harmful emotions (feelings) and think to yourself bad things (thoughts.) As Gen-Zers have been telling me, this is them “blowing off steam” or “processing” their mental health issues. Their negative emotions (feelings) lead them to tease people online (actions.)
But that action, leads to a spiral that makes your mental health worse. Especially on social media, which encourages what doctors call “anxiety spirals.”
None of these platforms are your friends. You’ve probably seen this in the news; the design teams of corporations like TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram all went to casinos and talked to people who design stuff like slot machines to discuss how to make their apps as addictive as possible. Part of that design is cultivating a negative environment, because it makes people want to go on more.
And so, these people know about that “spiral” like the situation with the test I mentioned above and they try to encourage it. That’s why they don’t try really hard to get the KKK and other hate groups off their platforms; because they make money off of conflict. You say one negative thing, then another, then see a puppy to relax, but then there’s another negative then and before you know it you’ve been on the app for 2 hours.
When you act negative online, be mindful that the manipulative app makes it very easy and very rewarding to be negative online.
Saying something mean to a stranger makes your mental health worse. You are hurting yourself, and you can get
That’s easy to say, but it also takes a lot of practice to take care of yourself. Training yourself to manage your spirals takes time and attention and a lot of love. I’m a dirty recovered alcoholic millennial who’s 34 years old, and even after years of work…I’m not perfect. That means that you’ll probably not be perfect as well and make a lot of mistakes, which is great! Because that means that you are human like that rest of us and we have this one big, beautiful thing of our failures that we all share with each other.
The basic strategy to get out of these spirals is kind of simple, but takes a lot of practice. A lot of it involves just being mindful of your surroundings. If you’re worked up online and deep in an argument with a Dirty Millennial, look up from your phone and ask yourself “how do I feel?” Try to become more literate and aware of what you feel.
It’s also important to note that you don’t need to be alone in this struggle. Talk to people. Even if you think they don’t like you, talk to people. Sometimes it might backfire on you, but don’t let that stop you. Because…I don’t fucking care who’s reading this…you’re a good person and in spite of everything you think, there’s people who get your crap. It just takes a lot of boring, really busy work to find them. And also, they’re not on apps. (fully) Talk to people in IMs. Zoom meetings. Make real connections.
And, while not everyone has access to therapy and that’s a literal crime. (M4A, baby) Therapy is an important tool, and it’s for everybody. It’s not just for sick people. It’s not just for “crazy people” it’s for you, who’s sitting on your ass reading what I’m writing right now. Therapy is not about “problems” (like “I’m crazy! fix me!”), it’s about having a neutral place to work out your feelings and thoughts and actions. It’s kinda like, you have a bunch of drafts on your phone for ideas that you don’t post on social media yet. Nobody can see them, so you can explore it freely.
If you have a trusting relationship with your parents, and the means to do so, talk to your parents about therapy. Some therapists suck, and it might take a while to find someone who works for you…and you have a right not to trust a doctor who you talk to. But you can go to therapy, and it makes your life so much easier.
I swear, you end up making more friends, you become more creative, feeling more comfortable with yourself. You learn that so many struggles you’ve been going through don’t need to be struggles. You can breathe.
I want to end with this, you Gen-Z kids pride yourselves in being “woke” and progressive. But I think you’re hypocrites. Because you don’t take care of yourself. Every kid I see with a BLM profile pic who harrasess me on Byte I dismiss as a “fake-woke bully.”
You’re attacking millennials because of some perceived slight that we did towards you, but you’re not taking care of yourselves. The most radical thing you can do, politically, is love yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, as a member of Gen-Z, you’re attacking your own generation just as much as Trump is. When you take care of yourself, you become stronger, and more loving and it’s easier for you to help and love and build communities around you.
If you care about Gen-Z, then you should take care of yourself.