Today I was sent another email asking to help "stamp out bullying". I've had a few of these and they are all from valid worthy causes. Bullying is a horrible thing to happen to anyone. Most of us have experienced some kind of bullying. At school I had a few months of it and can still vividly remember that distressing, sick feeling when the bully was approaching and how shaken I felt after an incident. It seems so far away now but it is remarkable how huge the feelings of despondency are. I kept my mouth shut as I was so scared and it was only when my mother heard me being yelled at outside the house one day that she took it to the headmaster.
The bully and myself were called into his office and she was given a stern ticking off. She didn't care though. I was amazed at how cheeky she was and at the time I was convinced this wasn't the end of it. It was though. She soon got bored and moved on to someone else. What is most alarming about this particular bully is that a few years later, I went to university in Glasgow. So did the bully.
She was a year ahead of me and studied Theology - I know! She had God on her side - so I never really saw her. I did become good friends with a girl who was re-sitting a year as she had spent a lot of the previous year in hospital. Why? This poor girl had the misfortune to share a flat with the bully. Her first year at Uni was spent facing such psychological torment, she was hospitalised with anorexia.
I don't know why people bully others. The sense of power leaving someone shaking with fear must be a real high to people with very little going on in their lives. It saddens me and I really try to treat the spats my children have at school with the utmost gravity when they come to me. How many of us were dismissed by our parents when we'd had a disastrous day at school? It's very easy to crush a little person and small things feel so big when you're little.
Right now we are asking our kids not to bully each other despite the fact we now live in a culture of bullying. We watch people on Big Brother sitting tasks and we vote them out which feels like bullying to me. We watch Britain's Got Talent and as a nation laugh at people with no talent - as a bully would. We should be caring for people like that. Fame is seen as an easy passage with no real effort. Stars do interviews claiming they "fell into" acting and "don't really want to be famous". Rubbish. Celebrities work hard at being famous and it's very easy to bow out and live a low-key life.
Even X Factor is essentially a popularity contest rather than a talent show. From the outrage I've seen on Twitter, it appears that all the genuinely good singers have been voted out. The worse tv show for sanctioned bullying is I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Celebs go on this show and the public vote for them to do all manner of humiliating, disgusting tasks whilst Ant and Dec stand laughing at them. Every year, the public gang up on one person they don't like and again and again put them through these hideous "tasks". Then we ask our kids to respect the feelings of others? What kind of example are we setting?
Twitter makes it phenomenally easy to bully as the 22-year-old Kristen Stewart discovered when she made the youthful error of having an affair with a man 20 years her senior who was also her (married) boss and should have known better. I'm not condoning what she did but there were definitely two parties involved and as far as I'm aware he wasn't the subject of an internet-hate campaign.
Whilst Twitter makes it easier for trolls to attack the object of their distaste, similarly when celebrities with 2 million followers retweet criticism from another party, they unleash the venom of their followers on someone who has had the audacity to criticise them. If you are an artist - singer, actor, comedian, writer - you put your work out there to be criticised. Some will like it. Some wont. Shut up and deal with it. It's bullying behaviour to point out to your legions of fans that someone doesn't like you. It's tantamount to setting the dog on them.
There has been a recent spate of kids committing suicide after internet bullying. This cannot go on.
Instead of sending emails to stop bullying we need to start with ourselves and the TV we commission and watch. How can we expect kids to show compassion if we don't?