Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us, right? Boston College professor, Peter Gray, recently wrote an article about the decline of student resilience. In it, he cites an incident where a student was traumatized after her roommate swore at her. Additionally, he mentions a time when two students called 911 and sought counseling after discovering a mouse in their off-campus apartment. Clearly, this is a problem. Not only does declining student resilience become a hindrance to over-booked counselors, but it also makes it harder to navigate the trials of everyday life. An encounter with an angry roommate or a bad test grade can cause students to break down.
It’s difficult to say why our generation struggles with resilience, but it likely related to how we were raised. Helicopter parenting has become the norm and increasing pressure to get into the most prestigious colleges and industries has pushed many to seek perfection at all times. This can be a dangerous mindset. Not only is it unrealistic, but it leads to constant disappointments as extremely high expectations cannot be attained. The Head of Counseling mentioned:
Failure and struggle need to be normalized. Students are very uncomfortable in not being right. They want to re-do papers to undo their earlier mistakes. We have to normalize being wrong and learning from one’s errors.
Collectively, we don’t take criticism well and are uneasy with being incorrect. How can we become more resilient? Sometimes, it’s best to laugh.
Jimmy Kimmel does a Mean Tweets segment. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. Essentially, celebrities read mean tweets about themselves on air. Not only is it funny, it allows for celebrities to poke fun of themselves. Further, it reminds the viewers that celebrities are human, too, even if it’s easy to forget that when we see them parading around the Red Carpet. Hurtful tweets affect everyone. In the quest for followers, civility is often replaced with sarcasm.
Considering how vicious and resentful the Internet can be, Mean Tweets is a nice break to laugh about some of the ridiculous things people tweet. Below are some of my favorites:
After reading the tweets aloud, the celebrities often frown or feign sadness. The handles of those who sent the hurtful tweets are displayed as subtle call out.
These examples are humorous when directed towards our favorite celebrities, but they also point to the ease of cyberbullying. We laugh when someone makes fun of the work or appearance of celebrities, but would it be so humorous if it was directed towards you? A study by Vodafone found that 1 in 5 teens have been cyberbullied, a fifth of whom feel suicidal. This is a huge percentage of the teenage population.
In a survey of 5,000 teenagers in 11 countries, they found:
More than half of teenagers think cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying and 43 per cent believe it to be a bigger problem for young people than drug abuse.
That’s pretty shocking. Legislation often addresses substance abuse problems, but social media has yet to receive the same kind of regulation. As Kabrina Chang mentioned in her guest lecture, social media and the law is still a developing relationship.
When we say something rude about a person or to a person’s face, it can be repeated, but not with the same venom. When we write something, the tone is often hard to detect. Humor can come across as bitter invective. Although social media can create a negative environment full of criticism and anger, it can also push us to accept that being universally well-liked is an impossible feat. It may be best to laugh at ourselves and acknowledge the haters. Accepting criticism is a learned skill and developing a thicker skin will benefit in the workplace, classroom, and beyond.