When I graduated high school from Notre Dame in Fairfield it was 1997. And as a teenager, my only outlet for gay culture, as sad as it sounds, was the infamous coming out episode on the Ellen show and Melissa Etheridges Come to My Window.
As a gay, closeted teen I would often sneak down to my fathers office, wait the five minutes it took for the phone line modem to dial up, sitting through all those beeps and crash sounds, just so I could search the somewhat new and limited Internet for anything gay related. At that time, the Internet is what helped me cope during those tough high school years, when all you want to do is figure yourself out, while all the while fitting in.
The Internet gave me confidence. It was my salvation and taught me that who I am, or whom I love, was not wrong.
Fast forward 15 years: While many school officials are patting themselves on the back, declaring that their students are tech savvy, I have to say it comes with a double-edge sword. Yes, watching todays teens with all things technology is an amazing sight, but as found with the Ridgefield High School Twitter scandal , it, too, can be a very, scary place.
I cant imagine what it must be like for todays high school students, gay or straight. High school can be hard enough. There is pressure to do well on standardized tests, get into college, please your parents, please your friends and all the while stay cool. Years ago, for many bullied youths, the moment that bell rang was the moment you were free. You could escape those brick walls and go home, away from the kids at school who tormented you for whatever reason.
Now imagine these kids' lives: There is no escape from the schoolyard bully. He or she comes home with you. They can harass you on the Facebook, Gmail Chat or Twitter. Its never ending. But students across the country are standing up to the techno bully, deciding that if the school systems are stepping aside, its time for them to stand up.
After speaking with Sophie Needleman, founder of Students Against Internet Discrimination , she, along with the more than 1,000 Facebook users by her side, gave me hope for this generation. They stood up to an anonymous Twitter user and showed him or her that their words of hate will not be tolerated. They turned a black eye for the Ridgefield school district into a much-needed movement of compassion.
And to all those teens out there dealing with bullying in the halls or on the Internet, judging by the actions of your peers, I can assure you, it will get better.
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