These days, we hear a lot about how bulling is being taken seriously by schools, teachers, parents and students, and among the concern over bullying is that of cyberbullying.
But what about when adults bully?
Maria Salomao Schmidt, founder of the I’m Holliston Happy Facebook Page, and subsequently the I’m Holliston Crabby Facebook Page (which she deems an “experiment”), recently received a question from the daughter of a friend.
If children are taught not to bully each other in school and on the Internet, why is she seeing adults doing it on the Facebook site?
“She was just saddened by what’s she saw happening. She’s learning about anti-bullying in school, and she comes into real world and sees adults lambasting each other and doesn’t understand the double message, and it hurts her,” says Salomao Schmidt. She says she’s learned an important message from this girl. For Holliston, she’d like to play with the concept of adults being examples for their kids and declare 2014 “The Year of Kindness” in Holliston.
If anyone can make it catch on, she probably can. Five years ago, Salamao Schmidt, a city dweller by nature, created I’m Holliston Happy as a way to, herself, appreciate all of what Holliston had to offer without pining for the city life she once had.
“I had to say, if you want to stay here, stay here. I’m happy to live here. I met all of those amazing people, but the biggest energy killer in Holliston was the fact that there’s no place for people to meet each other, except through kids, through church, and maybe your neighborhood, but that only gives you a really small section of Holliston.” Salomao Schmidt noted that there were lots of really interesting people, separated, She also detected a division between Holliston townies and Holliston newbies.
Her Holliston Happy site became immensely popular, and Salomao Schmidt found she needed to branch off with a separate Holliston Trading Post site. When there were a number of gripes on the Happy page, Salomao Schmidt good-heartedly created the I’m Holliston Crabby page. Much to her amusement, it took off as well. Lately, however, she’s seeing the dark side.
“What happened was, from an energetic point of view, Luke Skywalker only existed because Darth Vader existed. When you’re growing the light, the darkness has to exist, too. I thought I would give people a voice, an outlet to blow off steam, and then they could let it go. But instead of letting it go, it’s kind of become a culture of crabbiness. The first few weeks it was all jokes, but it has become heavy and dark. It has become bitchiness.”
Sometimes, that bitchiness on Facebook takes the form of one resident ripping apart another or an aspect of town or a business – and that can have lasting effects.
In a child-centered publication on Stopbullying.gov, child mentors are cautioned that cyberbullying is particularly tough to manage, because it can happen at any time during the day or night. Messages can also be posted anonymously, and within a short period, can be distributed to a wide audience. Deleting such messages, texts or pictures is extremely difficult once they’ve been posted. If children are held to such standards on the Internet, adults should be as well.
She’s not sure where Holliston will take “The Year of Kindness,” but Salomao Schmidt says, “At every level, I’m just asking people to be kinder to each other. It’s really about carving out that space and focusing the attention of a town of New England people on being kind. Happiness, sadness, anger, whatever – all those things are going to exist, but let’s focus on kindness.”
Even saying hello to someone, says Salomao Schmidt, “is one of the kindest things you can do to another human being.”