In this age of the Internet, like many parents, I’m concerned about what my children get exposed to online. But I’m also concerned about what my children may do and say online. Whether it’s in a text message, on a discussion forum, in YouTube comments, or over the microphone while playing Xbox, I don’t want my children to become bullies, jerks, assholes, or douche bags. Being a regular consumer of various Internet sites, I’ve seen many, many, many bullies, jerks, assholes, and douche bags. There is something about anonymity plus an audience that makes people become horrible, terrible monsters. It actually saddens me.
A while back, while surfing YouTube, I saw the thumbnail of a video with the title, “World’s Ugliest Woman.” I didn’t click the link or view the video because that whole concept — labeling and showing someone like that — just isn’t something that interests me. I’ve seen enough of the Internet to know how cruel people can be to anyone.
A couple weeks ago, I saw a photo of some famous soccer player with a very, (abnormally), skinny woman. The title of the photo just had the athlete’s name and the woman’s name. I didn’t know either of them, so I checked the comments to see if someone explained who they were. Of course there were many cruel comments about the woman, but fortunately there were also some explanations of who she was. She was the woman from the YouTube video I mentioned above. Her name is Lizzie Velasquez, and she’s a motivational speaker.
This intrigued me, so I went back to YouTube and looked her up. She has her own channel, with many videos — both personal vlogs and her motivational speeches in front of large crowds. She is amazing. I’m a big fan of TED Talks, and I found she has a couple of her own. Watch this 12 minute speech:
After seeing this, I watched some of her other videos including her personal vlogs and some TV appearances, like on The View.
Her attitude is wonderful. “You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to give up.” Even listening to her chat off the top of her head in her vlogs is inspirational and motivational. She is so full of happiness to the point of even being a bit silly, rambling, and playing with her hair, that it makes me smile. She is a joy to watch.
Last night I introduced my family to Lizzie Velasquez. I brought up her TED talk on our TV and showed it to Wifegrit and our boys. Both my boys are pretty normal for 10 and 13 year olds. They could use a little inspiration/motivation, (especially the teenager), but my main goal with showing them this video was more to teach them against bullying.
I wanted them to hear about, and see and understand, how bullying, (both online as well as in person), affected a real person. I wanted them to hear, in a victim’s own words and voice, how much it hurts. You can hear Lizzie’s voice tremble a bit when she talks about it. You can tell it still bothers her. But she has risen above it, and she is a champion now.
I told my boys that I know them well enough that I don’t think either of them would ever be cruel to another person. But I explained how sometimes their friends may say something mean to someone else. And sometimes communicating on the Internet, with its disconnection and anonymity, lures good people into doing and saying terrible things. I explained that I want them to understand how being mean can really hurt someone, even online. Real people are at the other end of our words, whether we speak them or write them, and whether we can see the other person or not.
Also I want them to understand that sometimes they may meet or see someone who looks very different than they expect, but those persons are still human beings with feelings and hopes and dreams and hearts just like their own. I want my boys to have empathy for others. I think Wifegrit and I have taught them this already, and I think both boys do understand, but Ms. Velasquez’s speech really shows and explains this eloquently and personally.
I am so impressed with this woman. She is a beautiful person. I am so glad I found her videos.