Earlier this year we spent some time with Purdue University student-athletes, educating them about how they can use social media in a positive and impactful way. One of the things we spend several minutes on in our social media trainings is how to deal with hate and criticism. As with most things in our sessions, it could easily be it’s own hour-long discussion.
Purdue recognized that and wanted to go deeper. Throughout the semester it was something they noticed was occurring often and they didn’t want to sit idly by. After a few discussions, we ended up coming back to do a session solely on cyberbullying. We looked at some statistics, the long-term psychological impacts and how practical ways they could be intentional in fighting against it. We looked at the impact this is having in college athletics and acknowledged the reality that this was happening on their own campus.
Cyberbullying is an awkward thing to talk about. It’s uncomfortable and easy to tune out. To be honest, I had a lot of anxiety about this session. I didn’t know how they would respond to such a heavy topic. It turned out to be one of the more powerful sessions I’ve ever been a part of. Purdue’s student-athletes were not only engaged, but they opened up about their own experiences. Several acknowledged that they had been cyberbullied, to the shock of their friends sitting around them. For maybe the first time, they felt empowered to speak up about it. To realize that they had done nothing wrong, that there was nothing wrong with them. They embraced the fact that the one thing they could not do was remain silent. It was a significant moment.
Out of this discussion came the idea for a video. Purdue wanted to to address this situation not only with their student-athletes, but with the community of college athletics. So we sat down and put together a script and recruited some of their student-athletes, who jumped at the opportunity. They plan to push the video on their social channels, but also show it on the video board before competitions. They are taking a stand against cyberbullying, owning their role in changing the conversation.
Kudos to the administration and the student-athletes at Purdue for being proactive with this issue. It’s on all of us to #ChangeTheConversation.
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