Bullying, insecurities, and advertising
There are few things that the media likes to attack more than bullying and trolling online, and that’s fine, because let’s face it: targeting individuals and picking on them is something that we can really do without. The problem is we have reached a point of such blatant hypocrisy that our intelligence has been insulted, and when we scratch the surface, we see exactly what is behind this whole “anti-bullying” campaign, and it has very little to do with stopping people from committing suicide and the enhancement of mental health. Individual agendas, further segregation, and corporations hoping to capitalize on those groups, are the ones that are pushing for the end of bullying online.
Once again, I have no problem with the potential end of bullying. What I do have a problem is the issue of bullying is not being addressed at all. If anything, bullying is much more prevalent now than it ever has been before, it just happens in a much different way, but it’s not the online epidemic that you have been led to believe from the call to action (if you can call it that) to end online bullying. Reinforcements of insecurity and self-worth being defined by others, especially when people are at the most vulnerable stages of their life (like in puberty), are everywhere. How often do we see the following types of advertising?
How much more damaging are those images when they’re seen by impressionable minds who are already unhappy and insecure with the way they look, and associate beauty (and therefore happiness) with the products that are being promoted? Advertising has a hell of a lot more to do with bullying than anything written on Facebook or Twitter. But the media wants to isolate social media and pretend that it’s an online-only phenomenon. It isn’t. Bullying has been around forever. But now, any perceived (to hell if it’s real or not) criticism is now considered bullying (but only if it’s done online and not by a major corporation, because dammit, there’s money to be made there…). Have you ever wondered why corporations rarely have to defend images that promote body image problems, and when someone comes along and promotes a healthy lifestyle (Such as the image below) they have to defend and justify their way of life?
And that’s essentially what this has come down to. What we see online is not a genuine representation of the problem. If we were serious about it, we would be addressing advertising as well as developing coping techniques in schools. Words are only given power if we allow them to. If someone is saying something that you don’t like, then simply ignore them. It’s kind of funny that for all the progression that we’ve made as a society in terms of equality and freedoms that we still get stuck on “what will this stranger think of me?” mindset. But that’s the dirty little secret that corporations do not want you to know because they unofficially have been making billions of dollars out of bullying. If a person gets bullied, it leads to insecurities, which leads to them to try to find security or comfort (usually in products that are associated with beauty or happiness), which leads them to buy make up or hair extensions or their 80th pair of shoes that they will only wear once.
Humans are typically the product of their environment. What we see, whether consciously or sub-consciously, we try to emulate. When we see Gordon Ramsay berating someone for undercooking a steak (regardless of if they’re actors), some people in society will see this as acceptable behaviour. When we see people on morning T.V. dissecting and analysing the appearance of celebrities, some people see that and emulate that and begin judging and critiquing the appearance of not just celebrities, but of regular people who might already be well aware of what they feel as flaws in how they look. But then, if someone gets messaged on social media about their appearance, “BULLYING MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE IT IS KILLING OUR GENERATION OF KIDS”.
What’s killing our kids is this bombardment of telling them that they’re not good enough. What’s killing them is not implementing an educational program on how to deal with adversity and criticism. What’s killing them is this constant pressure for them to be something they’re not so they continue to purchase crappy and meaningless products. Oh God, I just bullied some products. Whoops.
We’ve become very lazy when it comes to addressing major issues in life, and no problem in society highlights this more than how painfully slow we’ve reacted to dealing with suicide and depression. The answers are to solving this issue are right in front of us. The only thing stopping us from truly progressing in this field is they are a direct conflict to companies that are trying to cash in on our insecurities and would have to take an almost unthinkable step of calling companies out for exploiting people’s insecurities. In addition to that, training the human mind (especially at an early level) to think critically of what we are told (whether it’s from companies or strangers online) has the potential to undermine what the “elite” of society (whether it’s CEO’s or politicians or people in the media) has spent decades in trying to establish. If kids are trained to not be so naive and gullible to what they hear or read online, then maybe they won’t be so easily marketed to.
That’s the answer to solving bullying. It’s simple. Train the human mind to not give a fuck about what people say.
The great irony in all of this is, at the end of the day, the internet (despite being blamed for bullying) is empowering a generation of thinkers through access of communication. For every idiotic marketing campaign, every B.S. political speech, every crappy videogame, there is someone pointing out to a potentially limitless audience. Corporations HATE this. So, whilst the internet and social media is made to be the villain in all of this, it actually isn’t. It’s the internet that is standing up and challenging these old, asinine, one-way, we-talk-you-listen, forms of communication.
One day, when television is buried (like newspapers are now), we’ll see the relationship between advertising and television shows (not just the advertisements but the actual programming), and their influence on politics. There’s a saying that “everyone has a price”, and this is true. The problem is for marketers and people desperate to keep this power structure, is there is a growing number of people from my generation whose price is nothing. We don’t care about how much money can be made out of people’s insecurities or misfortunes. What we care about is fixing these problems.
I started this article by saying that “bullying is something we can do without”. I stand by this. What we could also do without is the stagnation of help for people with mental health problems. There is still a stigma of disbelief associated with this. What needs to be recognised that greed, despite being celebrated in society, is also a disease. Perhaps it is greed, and not suicide or bullying, that’s my generation’s biggest challenge.
Look, if we want to progress as a society, we need to empower thinking for everybody. If we want to cure cancer, if we want achieve equality, if we want to land on Mars one day, if we want to eradicate bullying, we need to show people that thinking for themselves isn’t just possible, but advantageous. It’s either that or we can stand in line for the latest iPhone.
It’s your call.