OP/ED: A Word About Respect

I am disappointed in the recent actions of Lick students. I am referring to the events that have transpired online—specifically in the senior class—last semester and in the past weeks. The class of 2015 is not the first to experience cyber bullying, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

Many would say it’s a stretch to call these incidents cyber bullying. I disagree. It doesn’t matter what the intentions were (and I sincerely hope the people writing disrespectful things online did not actually intend to hurt anyone), the bottom line is, people got hurt. That’s where I draw the line.

I don’t expect everyone to tiptoe around topics in fear of offending someone. That’s not at all what I’m advocating. If we did that, we would never solve any problems and no one would ever know how anyone else really felt about anything.

What I am advocating is self-awareness, respect, and personal responsibility. I’m advocating that people think about their actions before they follow through with them, and own up to the mistakes they make.

Though it’s impossible to know what will hurt someone’s feelings, offend them, or trigger an emotion (we don’t know the full story, we can’t presume to know or understand what other people have experienced), it is possible to have common sense and some degree of empathy when we realize we’ve overstepped someone’s boundaries.

I usually have a great deal of respect for my classmates. I believe we’re all intelligent, capable young people who, yes, may still be figuring things out, may be dealing with our own issues, but who are aware of the people around us. Who have the ability to empathize and to be considerate. Who have the capacity to understand when we’re crossing a line, even if that line looks different to someone else.

That’s why I am especially disappointed that people are using online anonymity and the disconnect between keyboard, screen, and reader as an excuse to say things that, frankly, I don’t think they’d say to anybody face-to-face.

The internet has accomplished some great things, but it is also a breeding ground for bullying.

We often forget how public it is, and also how permanent. Being behind a screen can conjure a sense of bravado and a lack of understanding of what one’s cyber actions can do to another person.

It changes things when you can’t see someone’s reaction to your words, can’t hear the tone of their voice and see the expression on their face.

People don’t live in isolation from each other, and I hope that we, as Lick students and as memebers of this society, understand that. Our actions affect other people in ways we can never even begin to comprehend.

All this is especially relevant with everything that’s happening right this very second, across the country and across the world. 2014 was a tumultuous year, and 2015 is shaping up to be even more so.

In order to get through this year and the ones to come, in order to survive and thrive, to hopefully make the world a little bit of a better place, we must practice compassion, consideration and empathy. There’s just no way around that fact. I’m afraid we’ll tear each other to pieces if we don’t.


If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic with me or the Paper Tiger, please email us at ptiger@lwhs.org.

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About Amanda Braitman

Amanda began her illustrious writing career at the tender age of seven with a beautiful debut titled Flowers, illustrated by the author herself, who is by no means, as they say, “une artiste.” She went on to co-author a book in the third grade about why people with curly hair want straight hair, and why people with straight hair want curly hair—the work was an instant success and sold millions. Amanda has taken a hiatus from novel writing for the last nine years, supposedly to “concentrate on schoolwork,” as she said in an interview with the Paris Review. However, sources tell us that she’s secretly been compiling stories for a massive anthology. We’ll see. Amanda currently resides in Hillsborough, California with her mother and her hyperactive dog, and sometimes she tries to feed the cat who lives next door, but the cat isn’t very friendly.

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