Aretha Franklin, Jesus Christ and the Honor Code all agree on one thing – respecting others is very important.
Respect and the Honor Code
On Jan. 29, the official Brigham Young University Instagram account featured a group of faculty and students on their Instagram stories, each speaking about respect. They posted, “In today’s story, listen to a number of individuals from across campus who are speaking about different aspects of respecting others. Whether in person or online, understanding and employing these principles helps our campus community be a better experience for all.”
In the Instagram stories, Kevin J. Worthen, president of BYU, stated, “BYU’s mission statement says all relationships within the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbors. We believe everyone is a beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Parents and each one of us has a divine nature and destiny. That is a very powerful truth, and it’s the basis for our commitment to respecting others.”
We at the Scroll concur with President Worthen. We believe that as students of the Church Education System at BYU-Idaho, we have the duty to respect others, not only because of the commitment we make when we sign the Honor Code, but because it is our responsibility as disciples of Christ – not only to respect people in person but online as well.
Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of teenagers in the United States have experienced cyberbullying. If you look online, it’s fairly easy to see that teenagers aren’t the only ones affected by online bullying and harassment. A 2017 Pew Research study found that 41 percent of American adults have experienced online harassment, 66 percent have seen online harassment directed at someone else and 62 percent consider online harassment a major problem.
A lot of us might assume cyberbullying is just pre-pubescent kids calling each other inappropriate names anonymously, gay and racial slurs over Xbox Live, or using social media to tell other teens to harm themselves. But cyberbullying is more than that.
There are a variety of definitions for cyberbullying, but they all boil down to using technology to harass, bully, threaten, intimidate, embarrass or target someone. This behavior and incivility have destroyed our ability to share ideas and debate in a civil manner online. Comment forums are full of binary arguments, YouTube is full of videos where someone with a particular viewpoint is shown “annihilating” or “destroying” the opposing ideology, ‘sick burns’ are glorified and small sound bites are used to support a particular point of view.
Cyberbullying has become something that most everybody has seen – including our elders.
Social media is a big part of almost everyone’s life nowadays — in fact, the fastest growing age group joining social media is those 45 and up. Those 55 to 65 are even joining sites like Twitter with vigor.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more are constantly changing their algorithms. New websites and apps pop up each day, and the digital world around us moves faster and faster. One thing that won’t change is God’s law to love one another.
What God Has to Say About Respect
In Matthew, when Jesus Christ was asked what the most important law was, He answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The idea of loving others as we love ourselves, or treating others how we want to be treated, is something that most of us learned as children.
So why is it, then, that as soon as there is a screen separating two people, the respect and the love dissipate?
A technology company in the United Kingdom released a blog post analyzing cyberbullying. They discovered that some of the reasons cyberbullying has become such an issue is due to anonymity behind screens and less obvious consequences or reactions. A 2010 study discovered that young people who cyberbully have less empathy.
When we lack empathy and compassion for others, we are taught to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that (we) may be filled with this love.” We are promised that if we reach out to God and try to love others, we will see them as God’s children, avoid saying negative things about them, have the patience to try to understand them and help them when they are struggling or discouraged.
Us versus Them Doesn’t Create Unity
Almost every issue of a complex nature cannot be solved with single-sided, us versus them mindset. Too many people take the lazy way out, and instead of studying an issue from every side, they try to pick and choose pieces of the issue, throw out a quick retort and move on. As we stand stubborn in our positions, unwilling to look at things from another point of view, social media reinforces our echo chamber, and we end up with one side having contempt for the other.
Deb Hutchins, a food science graduate student featured on BYU’s Instagram story, said, “It’s easy to respect someone when you know them personally, but we don’t and we can’t know all that someone is going through, has gone through, or what hits close to home. What it really comes down to is having respect for other people.”
The bottom line is that contempt and hate are easy to express when you aren’t staring somebody in the eyes, or do not have a personal relationship with them like Deb mentioned. If you can distance yourself from a person and turn them into just a series of pictures or words on a screen, it becomes easy to view someone as ‘other.’ It is easy to start deconstructing and dehumanizing a person in order to prop up your own point of view.
If valid facts are presented and are difficult for the arguer to recognize, people often turn to personal attacks instead of formulating a better argument with logic and proof. It’s much easier to call someone mean names instead of asking how they reached their conclusion and attempting to understand them. This is such a common approach we see online, which creates more distance between human beings … and the more that distance grows, the easier it is to see someone as an ‘other.’
The Golden Rule Really Is Golden
That little golden rule we learned as children is even more important now — do unto others as you would have done to you.
If you wouldn’t say things to someone’s face, looking them dead in the eyes — don’t post it.
If you get irritated, then take a step back, breathe, and create a calm and compelling argument for your position — without attacking someone’s opinion with hate.
We at the Scroll echo the sentiments of BYU and their Instagram story, “As a campus community, we should rise above words and actions that demean someone for their race, gender, orientation, religion, or any other circumstance … We can be more intentional and thoughtful with our words, to more accurately represent what is in our hearts for each other. God has a plan for each one of us, so let’s talk to each other in a way that respects the different things that he wants us to do and become.”