Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are primarily used to keep in touch with friends and catch up on the latest gossip. Within recent years, the development of cyber bullying has come about, and Millikin caught a glimpse of it earlier this month.
An anonymous Twitter user created an account called MU Crushes where tweets would be posted about specific students. The tweets could be considered borderline inappropriate, but they were flattering and humorous. Tweets along the lines of “I’d tap that” and “So and so has such a beautiful voice” were common.
Hours later, another account was created called MU Confessions. The user behind the account, who has still not been identified, posted tweets attacking students, Greek life, faculty and staff. Much of the content targeted individuals to sexually exploit them. What was considered to be the “anti-MU Crushes” quickly turned into an uproar.
“I was alerted the night it happened from staff members,” Dean of Student Development Raphaella Prange said. “I was told this Twitter feed has gotten legs and it started propelling itself in the Millikin community. Looking at the info, the negative content is considered to be cyber bullying and victimization.”
To add to the problem, the account was using Millikin’s official logo and seal – which is illegal. It is a violation to use the Millikin brand for a purpose not intended by the university. Prange contacted marketing who was able to suspend the account.
“What’s important to understand is there’s a delicate balance between freedom of speech and providing a safe environment,” Prange said. “There’s no ability to stop posting on social media, but it’s our duty to protect the seal and logo. I don’t think they were aware of the impact this had on students and faculty. These are the conversations that are good to have; they end up with a learning experience. I don’t think they realized this would be perceived in this manner.”
As stated before, there are currently no leads in who started the offensive account, but Prange doesn’t necessarily want to create a disciplinary action. She encourages those who feel victimized to have a voice and talk to an administrator about their concerns. It’s a student’s privilege to feel safe and empowered. Prange’s door is always open for conversation.
“It’s not about wanting to hunt down and find the culprit, it’s more about helping the campus with what might be more appropriate and being inclusive and open,” she said.
One of the students who was victimized and specifically targeted was Grace Barnett. The tweet posted about her was, “I farted during a thunderstorm once, and I blamed it on the midget girl.”
“It’s harassment,” Barnett said. “For the people who don’t know, the M word is the most offensive thing to call me. It’s something I take very personal. Who else on campus is a little person? I’m the only one and I have come to grips with it. What really bugs me is that it defines me to a category – the M girl essentially.
“After reading that, it makes me think that people here see me as the M girl. I am very offended and very embarrassed. I have always seen Millikin as an inclusive campus. It now makes me question what others think of me. The fact that everyone who was following MU Confessions knows exactly who they were talking about. After it was posted, people were staring at me. Being a little person, I get stared at enough; it’s hard to ignore when you know.”
Cyber bullying has had a history of young people committing suicide, harming themselves in some way and having low self-esteem. Those who bully think that hiding behind a computer is a safety net.
“They don’t understand that one small statement can have an incredible impact on people,” Barnett said. “I want to make it clear that this isn’t me complaining, but I’m very hurt and upset about this; it’s ridiculous.
“I’m glad Millikin is taking steps to find the culprit. As a member of Unity and part of peer professional staff, I’m not going to stand for this. I’m going to fight with everything I got to make sure these people are punished.”
“I don’t think it was intentionally to be rude,” student Lisa Capasso said. “They wanted to have fun. Everybody knows everybody in some way, and it this turned into chaos. There was one comment that offended somebody, and then MU confessions became an excuse to be mean. It’s the small things that take a thousand nice things to undo it.”