A few weeks ago, a post on the DLSU Profs to Pick page on Facebook blew up when a student posted a lengthy rant about his search for a girlfriend. He would then go on to ask if any girl reading the post was willing to be his significant other so that his long search might finally come to an end.
The student did mention that he had mild autism, so while the post came off as both offensive and disrespectful in several aspects, his actions could be understood. Almost immediately, however, several other students began commenting on the post, tagging friends in subtle mockery if not outright teasing the original poster. It wasn’t long before the post became a long line of friends tagging other friends in order to laugh at the entire situation.
Bullying is defined by Merriam Webster as acts of written or spoken words intended to intimidate or harass a person–which includes teasing and taunting. In the same vein, cyberbullying is the use of mediums such as social media to embarrass and target a person. There is no excuse for this kind of bullying–or any kind of bullying for that matter–no matter how wrong or offensive the post was. And while several of those who tagged their friends on the post may not have had mean-spirited intentions, it was still an entirely unnecessary form of mockery.
There is something to be said about understanding the context in which things are written. Bullying is wrong in any situation, but even moreso given the special situation of the author of the post. At a time when compassion for fellow students in the community, especially those suffering from mental health disorders, should be highlighted, we should be understanding of differing situations, not scornful or dismissive.
Some of those who made fun of the student or who dismissed their case may not be aware of the different ways that mental health disorders can manifest, but this only means that we, as a student body, should make more of an effort to be educated about such things. This extends beyond the realm of mental disorders, but even to different backgrounds–we must always endeavor to understand the perspectives of other people.
Obviously, to enable and encourage disrespectful behavior is not correct either, but there should be a way to teach and correct others of their mistakes without turning to outright bullying or berating. Even when the person dismisses an opposing opinion, we should still be able to clearly and politely clarify a position, or explain why someone is being rude or offensive, without turning aggressive ourselves. There exists a middle ground.
In defense of the Lasallian community, some students did attempt to do this, with several trying to explain in a polite manner why the post seemed offensive, while others simply offered companionship and friendship. The student himself later edited his statement, understanding why the initial rant was offensive, proving what a stern but respectful stance, as opposed to a mocking and aggressive one, could do. With the ongoing stigma against mental health, this is really the least we can do: offer our friendship, support, and advice to those in need.
It is not wrong to be offended by posts or statements like these, but we must have the patience to understand the situation, and do our best to correct and teach others. We must be able to clarify a position in a manner fit for the situation. If all we have to offer by way of advice or support is a mocking tag, then what does that say about our community?