Hiding behind the screen


Twitter recently came up with a new feature that allows users to create polls. Some polls attempt to be funny with questions such as “Would you rather lick the bottom of Donald Trump’s foot or stand on hot coal for 10 seconds?” while others have turned offensive and are aimed at West High students.

Anna Jacoby 18 was one of the students targeted in these polls.

“I thought it was stupid. I wondered who was making the accounts and if they actually thought they were funny,” Jacoby said.

According to Jacoby, students felt stressed and targeted even if they didn’t express those feelings.

“A lot of people that were in it were saying to people at school they thought it was really funny, but then I know they went home and told their parents that it was really hurtful,” she said.

A lot of people that were in it were saying to people at school they thought it was really funny, but then I know they went home and told their parents that it was really hurtful”

— Anna Jacoby

A single tweet can reach thousands of people, and according to Ally Halverson ’18, another targeted student, those sitting behind a screen may not always realize the gravity of their actions.

“I really wanted to know who it was because I wanted to talk to them. I was mad. It was embarrassing having your name up there in not a good context,” she said. “My parents are going to see that, I’m sure teachers are going to see that. It really stressed me out because I had so many people texting me about it.”

According West High Assistant Principal Colby Miller using the logo, words “West High” or any affiliation at all with the school will cause the administration to intervene right as it’s brought to their attention.

“If there’s any direct threats made at West High, we intervene immediately,” Miller said. “We certainly want to be supportive of our school community and students, but we also know the reality is we can’t intervene with every negative interaction out there. There’s simply too much of it.”

Just like physical bullying and harassment, cyber bullying has repercussions. However, those guidelines are less clear.

“We certainly want to be consistent in our practice as administrators, but we also want to be fair to students because every situation is different,” Miller said. “As far as being consistent there is a little bit of discretion we use based on the facts and information.”

Jacoby feels as though in order for change to happen these guidelines do need to be set in stone.

“I think all the schools [in the district] need to have the same harassment and bullying policies and there needs to be more punishment for the kids that do these things,” she said. “If there’s not [the kids are] going to continue to do them.”

The guidelines that are currently in place consist of three levels of harassment. These describe the actions the bully is taking and the disciplinary actions that would result.

Not every conflict between students is considered bullying, and disagreements do happen, so often the line between conflict and legitimate harassment is blurred.

“Unfortunately there are some misconceptions out there that just because someone didn’t like something about [someone else], and they stated it, that that’s bullying,” Miller said. “That’s not necessarily the case. [Students] certainly can disagree with one another. More times than not we find that two people disagree with one another and one of them perceives it as bullying and harassment when really it’s just conflict.”

If the situation is perceived as conflict and not bullying or harassment, then the levels set in place will not apply.

In the midst of cyber bullying and the negative effects of online anonymity, one Twitter account has attempted to brighten up the offensive feeds. An account entitled West High Positivity (@_WestPositivity) has been tweeting anonymous compliments to West students in an effort to show that anonymity can be used for more than just bullying. The creator of the account wishes to still remain anonymous.

“It’s much easier to say something bad about someone than try and look for the good,” they said. “I’m not a compliment generator, I’m trying to let people know there are good qualities about them.”

Although they know having an account won’t combat cyber bullying, according to the source it is still able to show people who retaining integrity and morals despite the temptation of anonymity is possible.

Halverson also sees the potential in remaining civil even behind an anonymous account.

“There are so many of these accounts. If people want to make accounts with West in their name, make them positive or something,” she said. “There’s no need for the negative accounts.”