Skyline High School takes to Twitter to beat cyberbullying
December 4, 2012
By Lillian O'Rorke
Walking into Skyline High School last week, the message “Pause Before You Post” was painted in giant letters across the school’s front windows. Inside, streamers and posters hung above the commons. Signs like “Just Be Nice” were hard to miss.
The week of Nov. 26 through Dec. 1 marked Skyline’s campaign against cyberbullying, and “Pause Before You Post” creator, senior Macey Knecht, said she hopes the stand against online harassment and cruelty will last long after her encouraging posters are taken down.
“People just keep bashing each other on the Internet,” Knecht said.
Stories hung on a nearby pole in the commons include the tale of how one girl repeatedly received emails from her classmates questioning why she even continues to live.
“I’m not saying that I’m perfect. I’ve never been nice all the time. I’m a contributor to this as much as anyone else,” Knecht said. “But, the difference between me and anyone else here is that I’m trying to make a difference about it.”
Knecht said she first thought about launching an anti-cyberbullying campaign earlier this year, when she was a victim of cyber harassment. An anonymous Twitter account called SHS Bullshit was frequently slandering students and staff members at the school, including tweeting that Knecht was planning a school shooting on the first day of school this year. The possible threat was immediately reported to the school and police. Knecht was facing some serious questions before finally being vindicated. The Twitter account was eventually deleted and whoever was behind it was never found.
Then, on Sept. 19, a threat was made on an online bulletin board that someone was going to launch a Columbine-style attack on Skyline students. Eventually, an ex-student was named as a suspect.
That’s when Knecht realized cyberbullying wasn’t just going to go away.
“There is just no stopping it until you stop being negative, and you just start being positive. And whether you do that in person or on the Internet, that much more is going to make a difference,” she said.
So, Knecht is challenging her peers to just be nice and think critically about what they put on the Internet.
“She is a real communicator. Macey has the ability to come up to you, grab your attention and kind of draw you into whatever her project is,” said B.J. Sherman, a Skyline teacher. The anti-cyberbullying campaign is Knecht’s project in Sherman’s DECA class. “She is an influencer. She has a very, very powerful personality. She is able to move mountains.”
Knecht kicked off the week by forming human tunnels to greet students as they entered the school. On Tuesday, she hung up all of the stories her peers sent to her about their own incidences and feelings about cyber harassment. The following day, she hung up giant sheets of paper where people could pledge to stop cyberbullying. On Thursday, she arranged for health instructors to give presentations about the topic to their classes. Wrapping up the week, senior TV production student Colton Kline made a two-minute video on the subject, which will be shown on the school’s SPTV.
“I thought it was a cool idea, considering that I know there is a lot of cyberbullying that goes on around here,” Kline said, adding that a friend of his in Arizona killed himself last year because of bullying — online and off. “I’ve noticed people talking about it and saying that it shouldn’t be happening.”
The biggest part of Knecht’s campaign is online.
“That thing about cyberbullying is that there isn’t much that you can do in person, other than raise awareness about it,” she said. “You have to go through the Internet to stop the problem.”
With the help of a few classmates, she created the Twitter account called SHS Nice Tweets (@NiceTweets101). It tweets encouraging messages about Skyline students throughout the day.
Three days after it was launched Nov. 25, it already had more than 400 followers. The Twitterverse reacted with tweets like, “If you are having a bad day just read @NiceTweets101 and you’ll be smiling like a monkey with a banana,” by Jonah Eastern, and, “Thanks for the giant smile on my face, @NiceTweets101. Keep doing your thing,” by Eric Shim.
“I’ve noticed it. All this nice stuff has started to come through Twitter,” Skyline student Elliot Roberts said. “It’s like you look at your Twitter page and it’s everyone just giving everyone compliments, everyone being nice.”
Knecht said she hopes the momentum of kindness won’t stop, and to keep it going, she plans to bring it up again later in the school year.
“Cyberbullying is actually something that happens a lot and goes unnoticed and nothing is done about it,” Roberts said. “The fact that she is doing something about it is great.”