“Her Digital Life” (March/April) missed the point that, although bullying has always existed, the ease of access to the Internet greatly magnifies its effect. If a bully writes a message on someone’s locker, the target may not see the message for more than a day, and the school will quickly clean up the locker. Although the target will remember the message, it will fade without a constant reminder.
With cyberbullying, the target gets the message and account removed, but there is little or nothing in place to prevent the bully from creating another account—or several accounts—and sending the same message. Those of us who have ever read and reread a depressing letter—a job or college rejection, say—know that it hurts just as much with each reading. Combine that pain with the angst of adolescence and then magnify the result by the force of the Internet, and you will conclude that cyberbullying’s effects are not the same as playground bullying.
Tom Hunt ’89 ScM
It’s always great to see a classmate of mine achieve a certain level of fame and be part of the cultural zeitgeist. However, in your desire to portray danah boyd’s incredible journey, you threw under the bus my friends and classmates who were members of the computer science department at the time. It’s ironic that, in an article that dealt with issues of cyberbullying, you—well—bullied us.
To set the record straight, there was a program called “rumor” that allowed students to post anonymous vitriol. Its existence did not reflect well on the class or the students or the department. The fact that rumor was used to bully, attack, and insult reflected on the department even more badly. And, just to be clear, rumor wasn’t used to just pick on women or minorities. It was an equal opportunity tool for attacking individuals. I, personally, was the target of a lot of the anonymous attacks. What happened to danah and to others and to me was wrong. And unfair. But using one incident as a prism to indict an entire group of students and a department is unfair and wrong as well.
This was a department that cared about its students, went out of its way to make people welcome, did whatever it could to encourage folks who were not traditionally in computers to consider them. I had women friends who had never used a computer eventually graduate with a CS degree because of the outreach and work the department did.
Kostadis Roussos ’96