During the HCSMgate debates and @mommy_doctor’s subsequent departure from twitter
, I was really shocked to find that many people refused to believe that an act of bullying had occurred. I struggled to articulated my thoughts to those engaged in the debate until I realized that our community does not even have the vocabulary to accurately describe the unrecognizable violence committed against one of our colleagues. The “bullying” referred to in HCSMgate shall be hereafter referred to as “microbullying.” This is a term derived from the words "microagression" and "bullying." I explain the etymology of the term and more specifically, how it applies to HSCMgate below.
According to Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD
- “[are] everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them"
- “hold their power because they are invisible, and therefore they don't allow us to see that our actions and attitudes may be discriminatory."
According to the Department of Health and Human Services
- “Imbalance of Power: people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
- Intent to Cause Harm: actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm
- Repetition: incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group"
Anything put into the digital space has the potential to grow and take on a life of its own. That is to say, content can "go viral." The power of social media and viral content has long been recognized. Microbullying
is the INTENTIONAL and REPETITIVE use of social media POWER by WELL-INTENTIONED people who are UNAWARE of the HARM that is caused by SUM of each deliberate reaction, which may have been "harmless" or even constructive criticism on its own.
There is no single person to blame for @mommy_doctor’s departure from twitter. Yet to say she left twitter “because she wanted to” is to deny that any
sort of violence was committed against her. I believe @mommy_doctor was the target of microbullying. If we each throw a pebble, eventually we have the power to crush with the mass of a boulder. Despite the fact that some members of the community defended @mommy_doctor, perhaps her instant celebrity and infamy were too much of a burden to bear.
As members of a community, we must be sharp in perceiving larger context and implications of our individual actions. In order to use Social Media mindfully we must exercise a greater sense of awareness and respect the magnitude with which our actions can influence others, for better or worse.