We have a law in Canada that allows you to seal your juvenile criminal record. Our court system recognizes that young offenders should not permanently be held accountable for the errors of youth once they’ve become adults. From shoplifting to murder, with few exceptions, it can’t follow you around forever.
Some people don’t like this law, some respect it. Good or bad, it’s the ultimate do-over.
Unlike this law, your behaviour on social media can follow you forever. If you post “I hope you die” on someone’s Facebook account when you’re 14, this fact can be part of your life when you are 25, 45 or 60. You’re a bully, and you’re branded for life.
I am willing to excuse youthful drinking binges, misguided sexting, or even a little frump about your first employer—we’ve all been young and foolish, and sometimes our first job sucks. And these indiscretions are at your expense—they are your own social consequences.
But if you’re a social media bully—a cruel, predatory, selfish bully—I will always assume you are capable of being mean. I will always know what sort of callous disregard for another human being you are capable of. There is a line many people never cross—a line of humanity, compassion and civility—but if you tell someone to die, or go out of your way to tell someone they’re an uglystupidbitchnerd, you’ve crossed it. I can’t imagine how you think that is okay, even as a youth.
This kind of callous behaviour has always existed in the school yard, but limited to those within ear-shot and a memory. Now the whole world is within earshot, and we have a very good memory. You’re mean, and we all know.
Perhaps social media makes you feel safer because it’s so removed. It should make you feel incredibly, permanently exposed.
Note: Kids, please don’t ever think you’re alone. There’s always someone to talk to. Reach out. Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (in Canada).