After reading ch. 11 in Paul Levinson's "New New Media" I knew immediately I wanted to write about online gossip and cyberbullying. I was a little late to join the popular college gossip site collegeacb.com. It wasn't until over the summer that I heard about the site from a friend who thought she had seen a post about me. While I was curious, I've never really been too interested in these kinds of sites for the very reasons that Levinson outlined in his book: they're generally cruel and completely inaccurate. The fact that I could be talked about on this site, however, somewhat unnerved me, and it didn't take too much effort for my friend to convince me to check it out. She showed me the post she thought might be about me and I was relieved to see that it was pretty harmless and really could be about anyone named Kristen. Once on the site though I noticed the titles of other posts and was both disgusted and curious. Posts included topics calling out the "sluttiest" girls of different classes and dorms, who was gay and who's not, who has the best bodies (and who has the worst), among other terrible categories. What's worse is that anyone can post something about whoever they want without any kind of explanation or certification, and also without the person in question being able to defend themselves without looking defensive. Although there is a report button many people don't utilize this because you need to have an account to do so. Many people probably worry that they'll lose their anonymity if they report something, which makes the site both so popular and so dangerous.
Another terrible case of cyberbullying is the Honesty Box application on Facebook. This has to be the single most confidence-shattering thing for a lot of girls in my high school. This application allowed people to write anonymous notes to you. While occasionally there could be nice things written to you from someone who had a secret crush on you or from someone trying to help you without revealing themselves, 95% of the time it was girls writing nasty messages to each other judging that person on anything from their appearance, to their personality, to their sexual experience. What was especially harmful about this application (that I think trumps collegeacb.com) is that people could only write in your box if they were Facebook friends with you. This meant that for the most part depending on how picky you were in accepting friend requests, the people putting you down were people you knew. Many a times, the people writing the meanest things were the box owner's supposed friends. I can't even count the many times this single little program caused catastrophic fights between the closest of friends within my high school class. I'm thankful I never enabled this application and that it seems to have lost some of its popularity since then.
Bottom line is that cyberbullying is going to continue to be a problem until sites and programs like these are banned from the web. Since this is unlikely, if people join together to stop giving these sites traffic, they will be forced to close. This happened to JuicyCampus.com and although this only directed more kids to collegeacb.com, at least some of these sites are losing momentum.
*although I don't really want to encourage going on to collegeacb.com, I know most of you have probably already been on it. If you haven't it's worth checking out at least to understand more fully the seriousness of cyberbullying and just how close to home it really is. click the link above to check it out.