What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘bullying’?
No matter if you were a victim of bullying yourself, or you knew someone who was, your mind probably comes up with some sort of schoolyard scenario in which the tougher, larger, angrier older kid beats up on the weaker, smaller one.
While this visual isn’t wrong, the definition of bullying has greatly expanded as time has progressed on. Instead of simply being a sort of childhood right of passage many kids have to go through, bullying has now become recognized as a problem or trauma that many adults have to deal with well into their older years.
With the ‘Boomer’ generation above them, criticizing their every move, and Gen Z below them poking fun at how they live, Millenials have had it rough in the realm of bullies.
Is there more than meets the eye, though? Are millennial women the victims of excessive bullying or are they, too, bullies themselves?
The millennial generation is known to be anyone born between 1981-1996. Some people think of this era as the last two decades before the world completely changed.
As we slowly progress past 2022, it seems like an entirely different world existed back then. Parents allowed their Millennial children to play outside until the street lights came on, without the worry of human trafficking or gun violence.
While computers did exist, children born into this era spent most of their days reading books, using their imagination and playing sports. Millennials were around other children far more than generations today. Nevertheless, bullying was inevitable.
While bullying can be defined in many different ways, it’s often described as any action that is “aggressive, intentional, repetitive, and poses a power imbalance between the victim and the abuser”.
It’s safe to say that in a world that has evolved as extensively as ours has, the way bullying was handled back during the 80s and 90s was no exception.
Back then, bullying was featured on TV shows, and in movies, and almost became a constant source of humour in entertainment. There wasn’t nearly as much education around the devastating mental effects of bullying, so this kind of torment was often left up to the children to resolve themselves (unless, of course, it became overly violent).
Millennials grew up in a day and age where emotions and feelings weren’t talked about the way they are now. If you were knocked down on the playground you were given a bandaid and an ice pack.
Now? Teachers, counsellors, and school administrators nationwide have been given proper training and knowledge in order to feel more empowered to act on instances of bullying.
Does the shared millennial experience of having their bullying brushed to the side impact the way they act today?
Millennials were just ageing out of childhood when the internet came to play. They were old enough to understand how to use these new technological devices but young enough to witness the evolution from the fliphone to the virtual reality headsets.
Cyberbullying is defined as using any form of an electronic device to harass, threaten, or intimidate another person. Since a large majority of the ‘Boomer’ generation chose not to engage in the era of technology, Millenials are largely using social media to connect with others, promote their business, and keep up with family…. And bully.
Adult cyberbullying is real and just as destructive as those schoolyard days. With 90.4% of Millenials active on social media, it’s not unlikely to believe they play a large role in the 37% of children aged 12-17 that have experienced cyberbullying.
But why? Why do Millennials choose to engage in nasty comments and hurtful messages?
It could be because many of them experienced a childhood in which they felt powerless over their own bully. Since many children who were bullied in this era were left to deal with it on their own, they may experience an addiction to the power cyberbullying can bring.
In addition, mental health was heavily stigmatized until recent years. Millennials grew up uneducated about their own struggles and were either given a pill to solve their problems, or told to “cheer up” or “stop worrying”. Being raised in this kind of childhood has made accessing mental health services an obstacle for many Millennials, despite it being a much more comfortable dinner table discussion now.
Unresolved mental health issues may make an individual more likely to commit cyberbullying than those who are actively seeking treatment.
Whatever the case may be, researchers still have an incredible amount of research to conduct on this subject and social media is still simply too new to give a clear direct answer.
On the flip side of the same coin, are millennial women victims of bullying, too?
It’s no secret that Gen Z’s (born between 1997-2012) find something new to criticize Millennial women every few months. First, it was the side part. Then, it was low-cut jeans. After that, it became poking fun at phrases and even single words millennials used!
While most of it was thought of as good fun, platforms like Instagram and TikTok have become breeding grounds for Gen Z’s to express their hostility towards millennials. Many videos have surfaced making fun of how millennials whine too much or come across as incredibly immature.
Millennials have taken the brunt of bullying for some time now, being harshly scolded by the older generation for buying things such as avocado toast, or Starbucks lattes instead of investing their money into home ownership or college funds.
It’s clear that social media has fanned the flames of millennial hatred, however, it’s difficult to tell whether the negativity started before or after the rise of TikTok and Instagram.
No matter what, Millennials don’t have it easy. They were born into a generation sandwiched between one that is ultra-conservative and grew up without as much as a cellphone, and another generation that promotes political correctness to the highest degree.
Bullying is never acceptable behaviour, yet Gen Z and the children to come after do have the luxury of growing up in a society with a zero-tolerance policy.
All in all, millennial women are both the victims, and the perpetrators. However, knowledge is key and with more education, we can decrease the rates of child and adult bullying around the world.
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