“Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics by trolls who intentionally strive to distress or provoke… If you’re going to be a blogger, if you’re going to tweet stuff, you better develop a tough skin.” -Professor John Suler- Psychology at Rider University.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Dealing With Digital Cruelty By Stephanie Rosenbloom, The New York Times
“Anyone who has ever been online has witnessed, or been virtually walloped by, a mean comment. If you’re going to be a blogger, if you’re going to tweet stuff, you better develop a tough skin… John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University who specializes in what he refers to as cyberpsychology. Some 69 percent of adult social media users said they have seen people being mean and cruel to others on social network sites, according to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.
Last week, Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, said she was going off Twitter, possibly for good, after brutal tweets by trolls about her father’s death. Yet comments do not even have to be that malevolent to be hurtful. The author Anne Rice signed a petition a few months ago asking Amazon.com to ban anonymous reviews after experiencing “personal insults and harassing posts,” as she put it on the site of the petition, Change.org. Whether you’re a celebrity author or a mom with a décor blog, you’re fair game. Anyone with a Twitter account and a mean streak can try to parachute into your psyche.
In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side. Trolls, who some researchers think could be mentally unbalanced, say the kinds of things that do not warrant deep introspection; their singular goal is to elicit pain. But then there are those people whose comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.
Easier said than done. Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative. However, there are ways to game psychological realities. Doing so requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge. “Nobody makes you feel anything,” said Professor Suler, adding that you are responsible for how you interpret and react to negative comments. The key is managing what psychologists refer to as involuntary attention.” Read more.
Update September 2, 2014 L.A. Times: After being harasses by cyber bullies Zelda Williams, daughter of comedienne and actor Robin Williams returned to Twitter with the following message: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” ~Harvey Fierstein~
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about cyber bullying. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic. Chart by Michigan State.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Education Oasis for assistance.
- Anyone who has ever been online has been virtually walloped by a mean comment.
- Posts can run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics.
- Zelda Williams said she was going off Twitter after brutal tweets by trolls.
- Comments do not even have to be that malevolent to be hurtful.
- Trolls could be mentally unbalanced and say things that do not warrant deep introspection.
- Social scientists say people tend to fixate on the negative.
- Our minds will glom on to negative feedback.
- Some people have an unconscious worry that they’re not good enough.
- Harsh comments can also be made to feel less potent by directly disputing to yourself what was said.
- Even when a person is alone humor can be effective.
Directions: Students choose the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
- If you’re going to be a blogger you better develop a though/tough skin.
- Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics/attic.
- Comments/communes do not even have to be that malevolent.
- The author Anne Rice sang/signed a petition a few months ago.
- Our attention naturally gravitates/grieves to loud noises and motion.
- These are things that sticky/stick in our brain.
- Let your critics be your gurus/guess.
- It is not common/uncommon for some digital luminaries to want to be liked.
- Some people think of their online life/lie as a kind of game.
- Be mindful/mindless of when you choose to glance at your blog.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- If you’re going to be a blogger develop a tough skin.
- Some people is mean and cruel to others on social network sites.
- Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics.
- In the virtual world anonymity helps us feel uninhibited.
- Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness.
- Social scientists say we tend of fixate on the negative.
- Ask yourself why you’re ruminating on a comment.
- It not always possible to learn something from a nasty comment.
- Research shows that it takes more time for positive experiences to become lodged in our long-term memory.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. The following 3 statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side. Trolls, who some researchers think could be mentally unbalanced, say the kinds of things that do not warrant deep introspection; their singular goal is to elicit pain. But then there are those people whose comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.”
Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative. However, there are ways to game psychological realities. Doing so requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge. Nobody makes you feel anything… you are responsible for how you interpret and react to negative comments. The key is managing what psychologists refer to as involuntary attention.”
“For instance, maybe you have an unconscious worry that you’re somehow not good enough. Professor Suler said it was not uncommon for some digital luminaries (bloggers, social media power-users) to harbor such worries because one motivation, be it conscious or unconscious, is that they want to be liked. They want to be popular…adding that it’s a goal easily pursued on the Internet. It’s all about likes and pluses and favorites. Yet if someone says something cruel, he continued, it activates that unconscious worry.”
2. Do you feel people can be manipulated by the comments they receive on their social media? Provide reasons for your answer.
3. Are your feelings manipulated by the comments you read on your social media page?
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.