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In a world that prides itself on progress and inclusivity, the recent surge in cyberbullying within our community begs the question: Aren't we supposed to be better? This editorial may not be the most pleasant to write, but it is an essential conversation that demands our attention.

Cyberbullying, a term that was once relegated to the realms of the internet, has seeped into our daily lives, leaving an indelible mark on the well-being of those it touches.

My journey into the heart of Cape Breton began with optimism, fueled by the warmth and hospitality of the people I encountered. I met wonderful people, from the random strangers who offered their help when I first started living in Glace Bay to some people that I now consider family, Cape Bretoners were everything I read about. I knew there would be bad apples, but it didn’t matter as long as the majority were welcoming.

In 2021, due to COVID and travel restrictions, I decided to drop out of my Masters program at the University of Rome Sapienza and chose CBU as the next step in my academic career. I relied heavily on Facebook and Reddit to understand life here in the Third and to get an idea about the local university.

However, the weird combination of inflation, the housing crisis, and a social platform where you can say whatever you wish with anonymously meant that things were starting to take a turn for the worse. Social media platforms that once served as bridges connecting us to information and each other have become breeding grounds for negativity and hostility.

The rise in aggressive posts, unchecked by anonymity, became a cause for concern. As a newcomer, I did my best to sift through the negativity, dismissing the trolls as inconsequential. Little did I realize the far-reaching impact these unregulated posts could have on vulnerable members of our community.

Cape Bretoners, by and large, are known for their warmth and hospitality. Yet, the confluence of economic challenges, COVID, housing crises, and the unfiltered nature of social media has led to a disheartening shift.

It was disheartening to witness close friends, fellow students, and newcomers grappling with the unwarranted racism and subtle hatred propagated online. And the posts were not just about newcomers, comments were made against all sorts of vulnerable members of the community. While initially, this might have been the act of some trolls, it was observed that many shared the sentiments in an alarmingly number.

As the winter blues settled in, the effect of cyberbullying became more pronounced. The stressors of being thousands of miles away from family, coupled with sudden financial burdens, created a perfect storm for mental health challenges. And if you are originally from a place where mental health is not prioritized as it is in Canada, these challenges take on an added layer of complexity.

The fear induced by cyberbullying is an alien feeling for many, and overcoming it becomes an arduous task.

The sinister nature of cyberbullying extends beyond the confines of the Facebook Police Scanner group, infiltrating other digital spaces throughout the region. The anonymity that shields perpetrators allows racism to rear its ugly head without accountability is frightening. As a friend wisely pointed out, the person behind an anonymous account could be anyone – a neighbour, a friendly grocery store manager, or even someone you pass by on the street with a nod and a wave.

The rise in cyberbullying is not merely an online nuisance; it has real-life consequences for those who find themselves on the receiving end. It's imperative that we, as a community, reflect on the values that define us and actively work towards fostering an inclusive and supportive environment. As we navigate these turbulent waters of change, let empathy and understanding be our compass, guiding us toward a community where kindness prevails over cruelty.

After all, aren't we supposed to be better?


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