Bullies: A Dying Breed

You know, I spend a lot of time studying youth culture for the purposes of helping marketing and brand strategy.  And over the past several years I have noticed a remarkable trend in the attitudes and values of global youth in general, but American Youth in particular.

When I look at the culture of American teens today I see a really affirming shift in values that relates to how young people treat one another.  It used to be that the concept of “cool” was one dictated to teens by media and youthful insecurities about who they were supposed  to be / what it meant to fit in were addressed in the court of public humiliation.  Bullies and cliques and “mean girls” were a staple role in middle school and high school culture – there to beat down those that didn’t fit in.  And there was no recourse for this kind of behavior besides telling an adult and being publicly shunned by your peers.

But now culture is not dictated to teenagers by anyone but themselves. Teens create their own media – social media- and are interconnected in a way that allows them to have real dialogues about what’s “cool” and what’s not.  And the social role that is finally on the chopping block:  bullies!

I was touched and affirmed to hear about this story on CNN today:  of a high school sophomore who had been bullied and was nominated to her Homecoming Court as a Joke – but fought back with social media and will be attending homecoming tonight with her head held high and the support of not just her entire community, but of the entire country.

This story hits close to home as something very similar happened to my twin brother when we were in High School.  He was always kind of socially awkward and was an easy target for the masses of insecure teens in little pocket of suburgatory.  But there was no social media in the 90s and, although he had the support of a few good friends and decided to just suck it up and have a good time regardless of what others thought, I know it must have been hard for him.  And it was hard for me not really  knowing what to do or how to make him feel better.  I think If I had the power of the internet at my fingertips and all of the dialogue that is happening now I would have been empowered to take a stand and make a difference.

So I am sending a big high-five to Whitney Kropp and letting her know she has my vote for Homecoming queen and I hope that what she has done by putting herself out there makes a big dent in the bully population of her small town and others like it.  Positive change is coming and it’s because teens today know when they see something wrong and are empowered by one another to fix it.

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