“I think gay people are sick, and you guys should just kill yourselves” says a man to a couple holding hands and chatting happily in a coffee shop.
This is only one of the shocking, vile comments heard on a video that is becoming viral, where people are seen bullying homosexuals, Muslims, classmates and overweight people.
“You are the weirdest kid in f—cking school,” two teens tell a peer on the sidewalk. In another scene, a woman is publicly berated by a stranger in a coffee shop: “You heard what I said. Fat b—tches like you should get over themselves and go on a diet … I’m traumatized. Get a gym membership.”
Onlookers are horrified and take a stand, intervene and defend those being targeted. But what happens when these vitriolic comments are spewed on Twitter or any other social media platform?
The viral video called In Real Life, co-conceptualised by Monica Lewinsky, has already been viewed 169,991 times in two days, and is in fact part of an anti-cyberbullying campaign.
The video was created as a collaborative effort between anti-bullying groups and award-winning agency BBDO New York, for a pro-bono campaign #ClickWithCompassion.
Called In Real Life, the video was released in the National Bullying Prevention Month, which is observed in October. It raises the larger question: “If this behavior is unacceptable in real life, why is it so normal online?” It serves to jolt us into realising how immune we have become to the horrors of cyberbullying.
Lewinsky, who is now a vocal advocate against bullying, was 24 years old when the news of her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton broke online in 1998. She instantly became sensational fodder for the Internet, leading to years of harassment, which prompted her to join the fight against cyberbullying.
“After watching this, you’ll rethink the way you interact online,” tweeted Lewinsky on Monday.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 9, 2017
“Before you post something online, think about what you’re clicking. Think before you click. And so what that means is think about the face test. Would you say that to someone offline, just as we’re sitting here? And if not, then don’t post it,” Lewinsky said Monday on American morning TV show CBS This Morning.
Since the video was released, several celebrities including Katie Couric and J.K. Rowling have shared it and offered support.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) October 9, 2017
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) October 9, 2017
— Jennifer Nettles (@JenniferNettles) October 10, 2017
— Alan Cumming (@Alancumming) October 9, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the leading cause of death for teens and young adults, estimating that 1 in 5 teen suicides are caused by bullying.