(CBS) – On last night’s “Real Housewives of New York City” Reunion Part 1, the topic of cyber bullying came up again.
The cruelty-via-web issue, which has been known to plague lots of tweens and teens on social networking sites, has hit the reality show in the form of (alleged) mean tweets. “Female reality stars are the poster children for female cyber bullies,” points out Sedgrid Lewis, developer of anti-bullying app Bully Block. “During and after their shows, they take to the electronic media to attack each other.”
A couple of episodes ago, New York City housewife Kelly Killoren Bensimon claimed that housewife Alex McCord’s husband, Simon van Kempen (left), “mean tweeted” her. Housewife Jill Zarin said the same. We’re not really sure what he said about Zarin or Bensimon on his Twitter, or whether or not he re-tweeted something they said or merely @ replied at them with something less than kind. So we took a look at van Kempen’s Twitter and found nothing of the sort. Could van Kempen have deleted them?
“I have watched, read and listened, sometimes with horror, as Jill Zarin has slandered, libeled and maligned me and/or Alex over the past three years but this past week has really been something else,” van Kempen said in a recent blog post.
“Frankly I find it ludicrous that 40-plus-year-old adults who are game enough to go on a reality TV show and voluntarily put their own lives in the public eye claim ‘cyber bullying’ when they find criticism to their behavior online,” van Kempen adds.
Wife McCord (right) also denied van Kempen’s supposed Twitter malice.
“If there was mean tweeting happening, someone would’ve picked up on it. It would’ve gone to Perez Hilton or TMZ or somebody, but it’s not happening,” McCord said at the reunion. “The only thing that’s happening is you guys playing professional victims and are accusing him of doing things that he didn’t do.”
So why are some of the housewives in a total tizzy about being victimized?
Cyber bullying is defined as “being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material using electronic means to facilitate deliberate and repeated harassment or threats to an individual or group,” says Dr. Erika Holiday, co-author of “Mean Girls, Meaner Women.” If that’s the case, after reading various blog posts and tweets from the housewives, we can conclude most of them are guilty.
“It has unfortunately become much more common to hear of stories of grownup women (and men) engage in cyber bullying. Women engage in acts of cyber bullying for similar reasons that we see in children – some have a hard time handling their own difficult feelings such as anger and frustration and as a result they displace their feelings on others,” Holiday explains. “With the recent advances in technology, it makes it much easier to get away with this type of behavior because they don’t have to face the person while they say mean and hurtful things.”
“I have experienced many vile things tweeted at me, but as a 47-year-old grown man secure in my own skin, they all mostly just brush right off,” says van Kempen. “If I don’t know this person, how can their words possibly hurt me? I do wish some of my colleagues on ‘Real Housewives’ would learn to do likewise.”
Young or old, celebrity or not, if you’re accessible online, you are susceptible. So how do you avoid or prevent being the victim of cyber bullying? “Be wary of who you are friends with, both online and in person. If someone is treating you in a disrespectful manner don’t allow that behavior to continue. Women have a hard time ending friendships, but it is okay especially if the person is hurting you in some way,” Holiday advises. “It’s also important to keep your information such as your Facebook and Twitter accounts private. The more you expose yourself to the public, the more likely you are to become a target of someone’s cruel intentions.”
So attention, housewives (we won’t name names here), if you feel so strongly about being victims of cyber bullying, perhaps you should refrain from cyber bullying others first. Look in the mirror (or rather, your computer screen) and consider that you’re guilty of doing just the same.