I took a break from writing articles to write a book with my husband. But alas I cannot stay away from a subject that I am so passionate about! I received an email asking for more scenarios to talk about so I am going to spend the next few articles doing just that.
Linda and Joy have a "friendship" spiral together. In this spiral they write about their day, make plans for the weekend, pinpoint agenda items for tests, and I am sure talk about boys and their favorite new One Direction song. Lately, Joy has been writing some hateful messages about a classmate. It has been hard for Linda because this classmate is nice to Linda and she has even been spending time with this other classmate outside of school on social outings. Joy knows this but continues to write some hateful messages. Linda feels caught in the middle; she likes both girls and does not want either friendship to end. Linda was caught off guard when the other classmate saw her name in the spiral and asked to read the comments...Linda let her look. Joy has now deemed Linda an untrustworthy friend and is telling "everyone" she cannot be trusted.
I like to use female students in this particular scenario as I feel this is an extremely common occurrence. The “mean girl” syndrome can be somewhat subtle as this, or it can take on a life of its own it become extremely unhealthy.
Having a journal together may seem harmless on face value, however with this simple scenario and the potential of even more relationship damage, a good rule of thumb is not to have such things. At the end of the day the potential negative far outweighs any positive that can occur. Having the journal in itself is not an act of bullying. It crosses into they gray area once the journal is used to speak about another student in a disparaging way. And this leads us to the bullying issue…
Issue 1: Linda showed the classmate what Joy would consider private communication. I don’t know how long it will take for students to understand that once it is communicated in some written form it is no longer private. This goes for written notes, emails, texts, posts in social media…etc. The rule of thumb to use is this: If you would not say it to someone’s face (or to your mother), you do not want to see it on the 5 o’clock news, or you feel it needs to be secreted then do not write it. It will come back to you in a variety of ways…most of which will be unpleasant.
Issue 2: Is the journal bullying? Yes. Classic. Once the friendship journal was used to put down another student it crossed the line. If the journal was confiscated at school, both girls that participated in the writing (even though Linda did not technically write anything bad) should be held accountable for its contents. The writings would be considered bullying against the other student and Linda would be categorized as the bystander officially, but I think an argument could be made that she was part of the facilitation. Once Linda read the disparaging remarks, she should have discontinued use of the journal.
Issue 3: Was Joy’s actions against Linda after she was caught being mean bullying? Yes. With the onset of TV shows such as Survivor, the idea of building alliances is ever popular. When Joy took the initiative to get other classmates on “her side” and against Linda, she drew a line and commenced to bullying her co-conspirator from earlier. This has now created an unhealthy environment for Linda to be in as she is being singled out and harassed in a manner consistent with bullying.
This particular scenario houses many opportunities for Linda to have stood up and done the right thing when things starting going south with Joy. No matter how she tries to wrap it, Linda will be on the losing end of this battle. I commend Linda for letting her classmate see the correspondence as it could have been a sincere attempt to stop the back and forth and free her from being “caught in the middle”. However, I think she will find her efforts will not be rewarded and in fact may perhaps back fire on her. Joy seems to not have any second thoughts of writing ill comments of a classmate that she knows Linda has a relationship with. Is that healthy in itself? What should Linda have done differently from the start?