Okay, there’s no right or wrong. But is this working?

The internet, and more particularly social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, has become a cyber playground for people to connect and share and converse from all corners of the globe.  Millions of human beings every day are uploading photos of their children’s accomplishments, sharing nuggets of inspiration and wisdom, trading recipes with their circles of friends, and reuniting with high school classmates from days gone by.

However, there is a darker side to this vast cyber world.  As wonderful and informative and entertaining as the internet can be, there are people who have chosen to use this far-reaching resource to hurt and shame others in what has been labeled as “cyber bullying.”  This behavior is especially prevalent among young adolescents and teenagers, many of whom are moving through some of their most vulnerable and uncertain years in life.  The level of ridiculing and tormenting experienced by some of these teens has resulted in grave consequences – depression, loneliness, and even suicide.

But what is even more alarming is when bullying stories surface about people like Charles Fowler.  What makes this story especially disturbing is that Mr. Fowler happens to be an assistant vice principal in a South Carolina school, who, while at a neighborhood Wal-Mart store, snapped a picture of a young 6-year-old girl, a kindergarten student, uploaded it to Facebook, and captioned the unsolicited photo with these words:  “Honey Boo-Boo in Wal-Mart.”

Honey Boo-Boo is the star of a popular reality show on television which features a family who manages to encompass negative socioeconomic stereotypes, obesity, teen parenthood, large families, and child beauty pageants all in an exaggerated effort to “entertain” its viewers.  And Mr. Fowler’s attempts to draw some kind of crude connection between these two youngsters by posting this picture online has not only devastated and embarrassed this little girl and her family, it has also cost him his job.  He resigned after hundreds signed a petition for his termination and the school district placed him on administrative leave.

This particular story caught my attention because not a day goes by that I don’t see repeated examples of people making fun of others on Facebook, publicly ridiculing and taunting someone else because their clothes are too tight, their teeth are crooked, their body is too big or too small, their words are different, the color of their skin is too dark or too light, or simply because some aspect of who they are falls short of someone else’s idea of worthiness or acceptability.

Of course, there are those who think Mr. Fowler losing his job over this event is an overreaction, that his behavior does not deserve such a swift consequence.  What do you think?  Harassing and intimidating behavior or just good ‘ol fun?  Do we hold the people who place themselves in positions of leadership to a higher standard – teachers, principals, ministers, etc.?  Is that “higher standard” one we should all volunteer to be accountable for?  Why or why not?  What is missing in someone’s life such that they would actually engage in bullying a 6-year-old little girl for a laugh or two?  What is missing in a person’s life who thinks this kind of behavior is funny?   And while this may appear to be the act of one person, what responsibility do we all have for creating this situation?

What will it take to get to the point when people stop subscribing to exploitive tabloid magazines and “liking” the “People of Wal-Mart” Facebook pages and sitting in front of our television sets binge-watching episodes of “Honey Boo-Boo” and “Duck Dynasty”?   Will society eventually grow weary of emotionally capitalizing on other people’s differences?

Conversations with God says there is no such thing as right or wrong.  There is only what works and what doesn’t work, given what it is we are trying to do.

So my question to you is this:  Is this working?  And what is it we are actually trying to do?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida.  To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • AngelaMooreDuck

    This is not working. We have grown-ups who act like children in positions of power and influence and as parents. They teach our childten the ways of the World instead of how to value themselves and each other.

    • So what does it take to be a leader, Angela? How does spirituality come into play here? I am just wondering how that role might look in our world. How do we get there? Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts!

  • Terri Lynn

    This is certainly not working. I must live in the dark ages because I did not know what “Honey Boo-Boo” or “Duck Dynasty” was until you explained, Lisa. I do think that teachers and public figures are held to be more accountable for their behavior and the action Mr. Fowler took against a 6 year old shocks me. I cannot even imagine what is in someone’s mind to do something to hurt another human being let alone a 6 year old. My mind does not comprehend.
    This is not working but what do we do to fix it? We all need to take responsibility for our own actions and help to lift others up and not intentionally hurt others. It is bad enough we hurt each other unintentionally.
    We all certainly should hold ourselves to a “Higher standard” but how many have to suffer before that happens? What will it take?

    • Hi Terri! It’s always wonderful to have you join in on the conversation. It seems as though being kind and compassionate to one another would come more naturally and much easier to us on this planet. It is especially difficult to witness those who have placed themselves in positions of leadership and trust to violate their own commitments. Perhaps an event like this will be a catalyst for Mr. Fowler, and maybe even those exposed to his choices, to choose differently. It’s probably best that you live in the “dark ages,” Terri, because it would make your head spin if you saw the type of television programming that so many people are devouring.

  • Erin

    Well, there’s a Catch 22 in this scenario.
    I see Mr. Fowler as ‘goofing’ on a tv ‘reality’ show that stereotypes tot pageantry, primitive southern styles, & being “sassy” while obese, using the ‘reality’ that IS Wal-Mart, which predominantly targets unwary, lower-incomed consumers who constitute a vast array of unusual styles, to say the least.

    On one hand, there are comedians who goof on these ‘quirks of Humanity’ as their job, and not only do those being hacked-on laugh, but so does the entire audience because they well-know peeps like them. On the other hand, Mr. Fowler can not do this, & loses his job, because, why?…he’s not a ‘professional’ comedian? His ‘position’ requires ‘higher standards’…Yet the comedian enjoys a much higher life style? Add in that ‘children’ stuff is way more serious…Kids are not humorous at all? (anyone who truly believes That one, does not know any children, haven’t been on Youtube recently, or has not seen the show “Ridiculousness”)

    So, Mr Fowler gets no chance to be wiser of his moves, nor physically become grander example to his youths of such event…he loses everything instantly of one ‘mis-take’. While the parents of the HBB look-alike are not even held, in any way, responsible for the condition of their child, and will probably seek some kind of monetary compensation for this ‘harrowing experience’ through a dysfunctional legal system who cater to stereo-typical get-rich-quick-ers. Real Nice!

    Lisa, We are a quirky bunch. And to be so hard-core intolerant provides our youth with hard-core intolerance…There’s the Catch 22. This stuff is not bullying…It’s bringing to light conditions that exist, that Are, that need Seen. One can laugh with the comedian, or now cry with the vice-principal. Welcome to being human, 2014…with one fact…”Ya can’t ‘fix’ stupid!”…but ya can giggle about stupidities…they are part & parcel of this existence. And isn’t laughter better medicine?

    idk…The ‘Nerds’ of yesterday now giggle all the way to the banks…The once horrendously bullied, rose above & with their ‘goofiness’, & have changed Life as We knew it entirely! Kudos, Kiddos!!!

    • Great points, Erin! Shedding light on diverse perspectives always brings us closer to understanding each other and coexisting in a more peaceful, but not necessarily agreeable, way. One of the things I love most about this website is the opportunity it provides me to hear and consider other points of view which I hadn’t previously thought of. We will all take away from this experience what we do. And even Mr. Fowler will one day see that the consequences of his choices did not end or in any way damage his journey, but rather it simply rerouted him. Excellent insights, Erin.

  • “Will society eventually grow weary of emotionally capitalizing on other people’s differences?”

    Yes, certainly, of course! Some will outgrow it more quickly than others.

    Those who do outgrow it, get to sit by the sidelines & watch the drama of others take place with love & compassion.

    They also have the added responsibility possibility to articulate, model & express the opposite behavior which is love & compassion, wisdom & kindness. Thus, being the change & example they desire to see in others.

    • I worked today in a room with three gentlemen who reminded me how far we must travel as a species to experience a world where things like this no longer take place. But I like your perspective, Marko, and will gladly join you on the sidelines!

      • Someone has to step uP. Let those who want, stay in the negative drama & others like us to step out of it, but allowing the good drama in, go on & increase.

        If negative drama residue overlaps into our experience we deal with it like everything else. With love, compassion & creativity.

  • Christopher Toft

    Perhaps it is harsh that he lost his job immediately. We are only human! I would prefer to see people sit down with this person and discuss why and how the incident occurred. The trouble with the internet/the blessing of the internet is that it’s like the universe and humanity in microcosm. It shows us at our best & worst.

    • You see through the eyes of compassion and understanding, Christopher. A breath of fresh air and a reminder I truly appreciate.

      • Christopher Toft

        Speaking of compassion, I don’t suppose you have a moment to nip to the changing change website & offer your thoughts & feedback on a few rather intense issues I’m experiencing? 😉