Do you become despondent when someone you barely know "unfriends" you on a social media site like Facebook? Do you weep when you realize you have fewer "followers" on Twitter than you did the day before? Do you experience feelings of social withdrawal, loneliness and even suicide when a complete stranger leaves a nasty comment on one of your YouTube videos?
Are you a wilting, hind-wringing, self-absorbed pansy?
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Recently, a coalition of fretting social commentators, parenting "experts" and media pundits pronounced that our children, for whom social media is a pervasive, integral part of their day-to-day lives, risk near-crippling "depression" should they fail to be affirmed, validated and friended on the Internet. "Because of the intensity of the online world," sniffed Parenting.com's Jennifer Kelly Geddes at CNN, "teens who spend a great deal of time there may be at risk for a new phenomenon called 'Facebook depression.' Teen development is, in large part, about separating from parents and gaining peer acceptance, and social networking sites allow them to do both. But if online harassment or rejection occurs, such as 'de-friending,' symptoms of depression may be the result."
It is this attitude that is crippling our society with mental weakness, hypersensitivity and overreaction to criticism. Recently, I spoke about this very issue with Beverly Pearson, a retired RN with 20 years experience working with a popular OB/GYN. "Teenagers today aren't prepared anymore," she told me. "We have prolonged childhood. Growing up, we all knew that when we hit 18 we were expected to be on our own. We geared our lives, including high school, as preparation for life, because we knew that 18 was adulthood."
Previously in Technocracy, I explained how "zero tolerance" attitudes in our schools are creating a nation of victims who are trained to be passive. Taught that defending themselves is no different than attacking someone else – taught, ultimately, that there is no moral difference between aggressor and defender, between rapist and raped, between murderer and victim – they grow into adults who won't fight for their civil rights because they simply won't know how. More insidious than this, however, is the transformation modern attitudes about "bullying" and cyberbullying," now coupled with anxious doomsaying about "Facebook depression," is wreaking in our citizens. If we do not acknowledge, refute and rebuke these attitudes, we will soon be a nation of bedwetting man-boys and girl-women, incapable of coping with even the most benign or deserved of criticism.
Take, for example, young Rebecca Black, who became a viral video sensation with an insipid, monstrously auto-tuned song and video she performed with the help of a paid service. That service indulges would-be pop singers by taking their parents' money and inserting them into prepackaged pablum destined to die quietly and unobserved on video-sharing sites like YouTube ... but in Rebecca's case, the perfect storm of dumb lyrics, awful video and earnest desire made her video an auditory train wreck from which few can turn away. Rather than focus on her success, Rebecca has made the media rounds complaining about the "bullying" she experienced when people left nasty comments on her stupid video.
Missing from almost all analysis of poor Miss Black's plight is that she and her parents own responsibility for publicly publishing her efforts. She chose to share her work with the world; if our public activity or public opinion engender public criticism, by what right do we complain when people say things that are contrary, challenging, critical, or even mean-spirited? To put it another way, if you open your mouth in the public square and start shouting at passers-by, you had better be prepared for at least some of them to shout back. Engage in any argument amidst the many available podiums, pulpits and platforms across the Internet and you will quickly experience this. It's a fact of public discourse, not a sign of some new societal cruelty our children are only just discovering thanks to the "intensity" of the online world.
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Earlier this month, a police chief and three police officers filed a lawsuit against their local newspaper, alleging they have been libeled by comments posted anonymously on the newspaper's online comments fields. The officers involved clearly feel that, despite the fact they are public figures, public comment and criticism must somehow be libel or defamation. Absent from their apparent understanding of these events is any awareness of the Communications Decency Act, which has long insulated the providers of Internet discussion sites from liability for third-party content.
In our weakness as a society, we have decided – and we are teaching our children – that anything critical of us or our opinions is mean, anything mean is bullying, and anything that can be construed as bullying is illegal. We then strut about the Internet alternatively weeping, throwing up our hands in distress and threatening to sue anyone who has ever said something we did not like, even when we invited public criticism by publishing our work or our opinions in public. This attitude cannot be allowed to persist because it is undermining the spirit of individualism and of coping that made America the proud nation it once was. More worryingly, the inability of some of our citizens to cope with life creates an antagonism that makes everyone miserable.
"The root of all evil is envy," wrote the late firearms guru Jeff Cooper. "The non-coper hates the coper, and thus the non-shooter hates the shooter." Cooper was writing of guns, but his statement is true generally, too. Strength of mind "puts the coper on top, and infuriates the non-coper," according to Mr. Cooper. That is the dirty secret held by the mental weaklings who cry "bullying" and "harassment" every time they are confronted with criticism. They, in their weakness, hate those who are not weak, and they seek to inflict that weakness on society to salve their wounded egos.
The task before us, then, is to deny them this ... even if it means "bullying" them to arrest their progress.