I had written a post a couple of weeks ago in support of an anti-cyberbullying campaign, but deeply-ingrained shame has made me take the decision not to publish it. I could have given an objective, generalised take on it, but it would be the same old, “don’t bully people on the internet because it hurts them.” As if no one had had that revelation. I am no celebrity who can tweet or make a 30 second video, using my charm, telling people not to bully, with a significant percentage of people agreeing, at least for sometime. I am sure it is possible, but as a writer and a blogger, and as a human being with experiences of being bullied, I cannot write unless I start from a position of relating the truth to you. And the effect those truths had on me. Clearly, they are deep enough to prevent me from doing my part in a much greater cause. I am ashamed at my inability to be bigger than this and stand up for what is right. And, I am ashamed of being ashamed.
It isn’t fear that draws you back from living your life authentically. Fear is only present in the anticipation or in the presence of something that can cause you harm in some way. It is shame that creates fear, to various degrees. Fear is only the response, the practical and precautionary alarm that saves you from potential danger. Shame is the reminder, the intellectual, emotional and physical feeling constant in you. It is caused by something you were or did, which someone else told you, you are not allowed to do. And ‘allowed’ is to put it mildly.
Writing that post was immensely cathartic for me. I had only a hunch of what to write, but something happened in real life that triggered me to pour it all out. Which I did, page after page in longhand, crying all the time. At the end of it, I felt relief, joy, that I had made these personal revelations, discoveries, that told me what I needed to do to make something good come out of these experiences. I felt like I could be different, renewed somehow. Even my tone was different, not the usual mellow, polite, self-deprecating, oh-please-allow-me-to-exist-and-eat-up-this-space I usually have as I go about life. It was crisper, daring. All it took for me to go back to normal was go to sleep and wake up the next day.
I grew new fears, and legitimate ones. I get roughly 20 views per post. Even if this post would have been in support of a campaign, there wouldn’t have been a much greater viewership than that. I realised in a cynical, indifferent but nevertheless truthful state of mind, it won’t matter. I am writing it to matter, I am writing it because I want it to make a difference. Not to end up in the jungle of well-meaning words on the internet. My “story” would have been nothing compared to the piles and piles of much worse experiences shared on the internet, that often invite voyeuristic and judgemental commentary. It is wrongful to assume that your presence on the internet is validation. It would be validated if you truly believed that the internet “approves” of what you put out. But, the internet sits in judgement, and in voyeuristic pleasure. There is a very small percentage of people who actually care.
But, these elements of social media come and go. My post today would be in some long-forgotten archives of tomorrow, maybe even forgotten by me. But, the experiences won’t go away. The shame and insecurities they caused me would only mushroom further when I would remember there is some freely available source to them on the internet, accessible even to my bullies. I cannot do this. I am not strong enough for it.
What I am strong enough for, is to do my best to not let it happen to others. And this is something you absolutely must do. I thought my revelations would free me from the pain these experiences have caused me, but they didn’t. What they did, however, was remind me of every time I stood up, for myself and others, when I saw harm being done. There are many who believe that those who have been bullied or abused become perpetrators themselves, in their own capacity. I strongly object to that. Being a bully or an abuser is a choice, a personal characteristic, not a logical consequence. Even if you have never been bullied (which makes you a rarity in this day and age), it is your responsibility as a human being to do your best to stop it, or lend a supporting hand and your attention to those who suffer. The internet can be a morally corrupt place, but those who made it so were not born in it. They were born in the real world, carrying its ritual and customs to this other medium of human interaction. It is your responsibility to make it better, to show that there are people who still care, even in this land of anonymity and free expression, for those who are made to suffer.