Today’s post comes from Youth Advisory Board member Emily Smucker, who, like nearly everyone her age, knows someone who’s been involved in some digital drama. The problem, ranging from name calling to full-blown cyberbullying, has been getting a lot of attention lately as we all — kids, parents, marketers, and corporations — learn what digital drama is, and how we can put a stop to it. As Emily explains below, it’s a common problem, and one that we can all relate to…

To contact Emily or other members of the Youth Advisory Board, simply leave a note in the comments below, or email youthadvisoryboard @ ypulse.com.

Dealing With Digital Drama, A Universal Problem

DeleteDigitalDrama“Did you see Lindsay’s Facebook page?” My sister’s eyebrows were up as though she couldn’t believe what she had seen.

“No,” I said, diving for the nearest computer. “What’s up?”

“You’ll have to see for yourself.”

I logged onto Facebook and clicked onto Lindsay’s wall. “I’m loving all my free time on spring break,” she had written as her latest status update. I knew that she wasn’t enjoying it as much as she proclaimed. She was struggling to get along with her mother, and had come to me several times for help. Still, it was nice that she was trying to be cheerful.

The comments beneath that status update, however, were not cheerful.

“I hope you’re using your free time to help out your mother. You shouldn’t be refusing to help around the house!” wrote a woman who was close friends with Lindsay’s mom and had heard her side of the fights.

Beneath it, one of Lindsay’s friends had retaliated, “Lindsay is doing the best she can!”

It went back and forth then, with two Facebook friends of Lindsay’s taking her personal issues and making them public. Nasty words were spoken on both sides. It was dreadful.

I called Lindsay up. “Do you know what’s on your Facebook page?” I asked her.

She didn’t. She had been gone for the afternoon, which was all it took for a full-blown Facebook brawl to develop. After filling her in I said, “You need to get on Facebook as soon as you can. You need to delete it.”

She agreed, and I hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. “Lindsay is going to delete the cyberbullying on her wall,” I said to my sister.

“What?” she said. “That wasn’t cyberbullying, was it?”

I had to stop and think. Was it cyberbullying? No one was sending anyone death threats, but then again, what I had seen certainly wasn’t appropriate Internet behavior.

That’s part of the problem; we see inappropriate Internet behavior all the time. Our liberal Facebook friends begin to argue with our conservative ones, using one of our innocent wall posts as a springboard. People troll our Youtube pages saying nasty, crass things about our videos. Someone anonymously comments on our blog, heavily bashing its content. What do we call this rude behavior? Is it bad enough to be labeled as cyberbullying? If not, what is it?

When I first read that Seventeen and ABC Family were teaming up on a campaign called “Delete Digital Drama,” it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Maybe the Internet drama I faced on a regular basis wasn’t cyberbullying, but that didn’t make it okay. As Ann Shoket, Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen said, “The idea behind Delete Digital Drama was to start with the smallest drama and squash that, so it never escalates.”

I talked to my social-media savvy mother a few days later. “Have you ever been cyberbullied?” I asked her.

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

“Have you ever run across digital drama?”

She thought a bit. “Yes, actually, I guess I have.”

“I think I prefer the term ‘digital drama’ instead of ‘cyberbullying’ for the Internet rudeness I run across,” I said.

My mom agreed, “Cyberbullying sounds so…fifteen year old girl in New York City.”

The thing is, there are probably fifteen year old girls in New York City who are getting Facebook messages telling them that they are fat and useless and better off dead. It seems so far removed from me though. It’s hard to connect that kind of tragedy with the insensitive people I regularly run across online.

“Did you see the comment on my latest blog post?” My mom asked me about a week later, the tone in her voice indicating that it wasn’t a very nice comment.

“Delete it,” I said.

“Just read it first,” she pleaded with me. I read it. The anonymous commenter had told her that she was mean and insensitive to the people she wrote about. “It’s no wonder your book sales are down,” he or she said.

“Delete it,” I said again.

“But do you think they have a point?”

Maybe they did have a point, but they were also verbally attacking my mother. And so, I gave her my digital drama speech. “If they had a legitimate concern about the content of your writing they could have called you. They could have at least sent you a nice email. What they did was just plain mean. You have to let them know, let everyone know, that you won’t allow stuff like that on your blog.”

My mom deleted the comment. Even though Internet rudeness is everywhere, affecting everyone who uses the Internet, she wasn’t going to allow anonymous people to use her blog to say mean things.

“For us, the Delete Digital Drama campaign is effective because it’s addressing an issue that is relevant to both ABC Family’s Millennial audience and their parents,” said Danielle Mullin, VP Marketing for ABC Family. “It’s a topic that’s universally relatable.”

And it is. I can relate to it. My mother can relate to it. But even more importantly, we can do something about it, something that will keep it from developing into drastic cyberbullying. We can delete it.

About Emily

Emily is happiest when she is drinking tea and reading a book in a sunny room. She is twenty years old and currently a freshman in college. Majoring in communications and minoring in elementary education, Emily also loves to write books, make short films, and design clothes on the side. She is obsessed with modifying and embellishing thrift store clothes. Her first book, titled “Emily,” was published in 2009, and she hopes to publish more books in the future. Emily is easy to spot…if you look in a room and see someone drinking tea and writing snail mail to her friends, that’s her!