Stories | Theology | Pop Culture

Channel 4’s Cyberbully: Behind the Screen

Channel 4 aired a film this week called “Cyberbully”. It’s a gripping thriller that takes place in one room, the room of teenager Casey. Alone in her bedroom she connects with the world online. Like most of us, she is on multiple social media sites that allow her to post thoughts, videos and pictures. A world most of us can understand but also one that is rapidly changing as the next generations moves in to join the virtual landscape.

In the film, Casey soon finds her computer hacked and a person begins to talk to her. This anonymous person can post anything they want about Casey to any of the social media sites. Pictures and tweets were threatened to go viral promising to ruin Casey’s life forever if they ever got out. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

There are a couple of things that should strike you about this film. Firstly nothing is as it seems. As the film unfolds we begin to ask ourselves who the bully really is here? Is it Casey or is it the person hacking her computer? Or is it both. It transpires that Casey was involved in some “joking” around regarding one of her classmates. The hacker accuses Casey of bullying her and making her life a misery. Naturally Casey defends herself, saying “everyone does it” it’s just banter or she deserved it.

Cyber bullying isn’t a joke and Channel 4 does a good job at showing that. The film makes you as the viewer question whether you have ever done anything similar, perhaps not to that scale, but it’s easy to post things in anger which results in attacking another person or putting them down.

The concern with the virtual world is that we forget that there are humans on the other side of those avatars. Real people behind the screen. This is what Casey forgot, the friend she was cyber bullying was a human being who was living a tough life, she had emotions and hopes and dreams. But when those words or videos went up, Casey never made that connection. She didn’t think that this was someone’s daughter, friend, sister…

I was thinking about this and how as Christians we respond to posts on twitter or facebook. Recently there have been a couple of incidences that made me step back and realise the consequences of our online words.

In particular a friend of mine posted something quite dear to her heart on facebook. When she looked back on it she found a plethora of people commenting some hurtful things, not really caring about the person who had written the post or the cause that my friend was trying to promote. It ended up with her being in tears. As a friend seeing this, I often wondered if those other people had approached my friend face to face perhaps they wouldn’t have commentated the way they did or said those things the way they said them.

Is this Cyber bullying? Not exactly, but the scary thing is that it’s too easy to post things online and detach ourselves from the reality that there are real people on the other end. I have seen posts on twitter that develop from a disagreement to a slash and hack of the person.

As I mentioned in a previous post:

We need to recognise that the person behind the screen has real feelings. And then we ask ourselves…

Is what I’m saying encouraging, helpful, uplifting, truthful, humane?

Even if I disagree with someone, even if I don’t think their theology is like mine, or I think their concepts and ideas are not what I agree with. The truth is that they are still a human being behind the screen. My ungracious words could knock their confidence and hurt them.

The person behind the screen is not abstract. They are real. Flesh and blood. Dreams and Imagination. Hurts and Fears. Someone you could sit down with and drink coffee with. It should change the way we comment, remark, review and write when we engage and disagree with people or dislike something.

The film Cyber bully is a tough film to watch. It makes us question how we use the social networking sites, what we say and how we protect those who are being bullied online. And sometimes its best for all of us to just close that laptop lid and go and see someone face to face.

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