Monica Lewinsky, a name people would associate with a sex scandal with former President Bill Clinton, recently delivered an important speech about cyberbullying. In her speech, she indicated that because of the anonymity of the Internet, it is incredibly easy to say whatever people want to say when they want to say it, as if the same rules didn't apply that normal people have to follow in the real world. But what people say on the Internet can hurt, and ChildLine, a counseling service for children and young people, saw an 87 percent increase in contacts about cyberbullying from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013.
Of course, there are laws to protect us from malicious online actions. Kevin Christopher Bollaert, who operated a website called “revenge porn” that allows people to post explicit photos of others without their permission,was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison. Victims of Bollaert's website had to pay a certain amount of money to get their image removed. Punishment to the website owner may serve as a warning to those who want to profit from invading others' privacy. However, the problem lies not only with the creator, but with those who upload such videos as well.
Young people tend to care more about how other people see us than what we see ourselves. We constantly check how many likes we get on Facebook and rely on social approval to boost our self-esteem. It is dangerous, though. Most of us have not had extensive life experience at this point, so we are not mentally equipped to handle public shaming.
Last year, over 10 percent of UT students sought help at the Counseling and Mental Health Center. From 2009 to 2014, the number of students walking through their doors increased from 3,900 to 5,265. While this could be a sign of decreasing stigmatization of mental illness, it also shows that mental illness is still a serious problem.
Kathryn Redd, interim program director of CMHC, revealed the issues that students seek help with the most. The top three are stress, anxiety and depression, which can all be caused by cyberbullying.
Identifying a problem is critical. If you notice in yourself a change in behavior, eating habits or sleeping patterns, it is time to start assessing those symptoms and seek professional help if needed. CMHC provides individual counseling as well as a MindBody Lab where students can relax and listen to music.
If you are concerned about other students or staff, the behavior concerns advice line (512-232-5050) is the best resource. At the same time, let’s all work toward a friendly and supportive online environment, where, as Lewinsky said, everyone “speaks up with intention, not for attention."
Liu is an associate editor.