“If it doesn’t directly affect us, we just don’t care.”

A sticky comment floated from a young person at an event I attended last week. I just haven’t been able to shake it. He sandwiched it in the middle of asking a question to the speaker on talking to people his age about issues of the day. He was holding his cell phone to which he had just pointed and described how they tend to be engrossed in topics that only interest them. They’re quick to ignore, pass over or just shrug off anything that isn’t directly affecting them in whatever moment they find themselves.

So … who cares about a country’s debt crisis – what does that have to do with them? Who cares about moral issues? I’m good with what I think. You can think whatever you want. And they/we live in a tech world – where we click on what we want to see and close what we don’t.

Island living.

It’s a place where people only bump into each other – on the surface. Sometimes never knowing a face or a name.  And since people only bump, they don’t consider the fact that those involved in an interaction are more than surface. They think they can say and do what they want without a filter – or any consideration that there actually just might be a person on the other side. See Also: scathing comments on articles, texted words that would never be said in person, cyber-bullying.

Two girls in Florida, 14 and 12, have been arrested and charged with aggravated stalking — cyberbullying.

They allegedly tormented a 12-year-old girl named Rebecca so relentlessly that last month, Rebecca leapt to her death from a tower in an abandoned concrete plant.

The arrest came after the following post was made on the 14-year-old’s Facebook account: “Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed herself but IDGAF.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he would charge the parents if he could, but there were no “obvious charges” against them.

[read more: Should parents be criminally liable for kids’ cyberbullying?]

Shocking. And should parents be held accountable?

Another example is in my back yard:

A special needs high school student from Texas has been subjected to vicious bullying, receiving a barrage of offensive text messages from strangers poking fun at her condition and threatening to rape and kill her.

Shea Shawhan, of Plano, is 18 years old but has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old as a result of a severe brain injury she had suffered at birth.

Shea is a junior at Plano West Senior High School, where she plays softball and is a member of the cheer squad.

Thankfully, Shea is still alive. Because people stood up and are fighting against the madness.

My mother always told me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.” I might have rolled my eyes. Sort of like my kids do when I say the same phrase, that I’m sure my grandmother told my mom, to them. But I still think about it. And I try to stop myself when I’m tempted to add to (or start!) a story about someone else – gutchecking, “Is what is about to come out of my mouth worth the space it’s entering.” Much of the time, the answer is no.

I guess these day we really need to be on top of and actively pursuing the conversation, “If you can’t say (or text, or comment, or post) something nice, don’t say (or text, or comment, or post) it at all” because the damage seems to be spreading at an increasingly rapid rate. The lack of interpersonal communication afforded by the cyber world offers a venue where there is no speed limit, or boundaries, or rules.

The age-old only-say-what-is-nice principal considers for a moment the fact that there is a person on the other side of every comment. A person. Someone of worth. Of great value. We parents aren’t victims here. We can stay ahead of the cyber world. Kids throughout the ages have felt invincible and able to say whatever they want. But even if they do it “anonymously” as certain apps offer [see also: ask.fm – and get rid of it], they still know they did it. And might they/we never grow numb to the fact that speaking/texting/posting shakes the world of both the one speaking and the one hearing – even in written form.

Because we are not islands.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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