Goali Saedi Bocci Ph.D.

Millennial Media

Rolling Out the Yoga Mat and Creating a Bully-Free Zone

Millennial Media will be banning comments to open up a more compassionate space.

Posted Nov 18, 2013

A few weeks ago I was in my yoga class when our instructor began talking about hip openers. She discussed how they are one of the most requested poses by students across the country today. Incidentally, the hips are where many emotions from anxiety to sadness may be held. Releasing the hips releases our many pent up emotions, she explained. As I was hearing this, I couldn’t help but think about what this means on a national scale. We are craving a release of negative emotions. A means of getting out all the uncomfortable feelings we hold.

Incidentally, a few weeks later I posted what came to be a controversial article for the pole dancing community. While somewhat accustomed (or as accustomed as one can be to personal insults riddled with vitriol) to such feedback from past articles, I was struck by one particular thought. As readers hounded me with angry comments, email messages, and tweets in an attempt to get my attention and direct their rage at me, I couldn’t help but think of the increase in incidents of teen cyber bullying and subsequent suicides.

Although cyber bullying is essentially regarded as a phenomenon more common among teens with access to social network sites, email, and text messages, these behaviors do not magically appear out of nowhere. Aggression is often modeled by others, most notably parental figures in the home. So perhaps instead of pointing our fingers at others and their children, we should turn that finger around. What are our own behaviors indicating to our children when we log onto our computers to anonymously hurl an insult into the world wide web?

Recently, Popular Science banned comments from its site claiming reader comments can skew consumers’ perceptions of the story. They suggest uncivil and rude comments can lead to polarization and shifting of one’s views of science. Suffice it to say, a topic such as pole dancing by no means falls within the domain of rigorous academic study. However, the inability to discuss feminist issues and women’s empowerment without a biased industry of studio owners and students as well as “rebuttal” articles and comments questioning everything from the author’s own romantic relationship history, to her comfort with sexuality and need to wear heels and objectify herself certainly dampen the spirit.

Some of my fellow colleagues have adopted a similar policy to Popular Science and describe their observations of the drawbacks to comment forums. And while I sassily posted an article previously discussing the psychology of angry comment boards, I am now also adopting a similar policy. Comments will no longer be enabled on my articles. While I have loved the idea of a fair discourse and have attempted to welcome comments from readers from all walks of life, I too, have seen how polarization has significantly skewed the conversation. Furthermore, it makes it far less safe for those disagreeing with the “popular” opinion to express their views which further skew the debate.

However, the more concerning issue to me is less about the polarized conversations but more about the nature of how some debates go overboard. There is healthy discussion and a polite way of expressing discontent, and then there is an immature egotistically driven need to affirm the self over and above all else no matter who gets pummeled in the process. The Millennial Media blog will no longer be a forum hosting such boxing matches. In future articles, I will continue to discuss a range of issues in addition to the very concepts behind programs such as the Choose Orange project, an initiative aimed at preventing bullying through kindness and compassion. Ultimately, yoga, meditation, prayer, and quiet time for reflection can bring out the humanity in us. It reminds us that we may have our differences and express them in our own unique languages. But respect is one of the most universal among them all.

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