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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Meme is The New Mean: Bullying Behind The Screen is a nonfiction book about social issues and technology written by Shani H Cooper. The advancement of computer technology and the popularity of social media have led to major changes in personal interactions, particularly bullying. How digital bullies act and affect their victims is something that needs to be addressed. This is especially important when those bullied are children and young teens. Cyberbullying takes bullying to a new level. Social media thrives on exploiting what makes people different, such as body issues, race, gender identity, or sexual preference. Insecure people often begin to judge their self-worth based upon likes or the number of followers they have. When cyberbullies attack, the effects can be devastating and are considered to be one of the major causes of suicide in young people. Cooper sees this bullying aspect of social media most succinctly in the use of memes which are quite easily put together and can quickly go viral. There is no vetting for accuracy, offensive content or just about anything else when memes go viral, and the capacity for them to hurt their victims is unlimited.
Shani H Cooper’s Meme is The New Mean: Bullying Behind The Screen addresses a serious issue that affects nearly every person who has any interaction with social media. The anonymous nature of the internet combined with the ease of creating memes makes bullying and hatred of others a fait accompli, with little or no accountability in place. While I’ve never created a meme, I consider myself to be relatively savvy about computers -- but my interactions with social media have been as an adult. I can’t begin to imagine the way harsh and devastating digital bullying can affect a young person’s self-image, self-esteem and psychological well-being. Cooper makes some excellent suggestions for parents, teachers and caregivers in helping young people maintain emotional well-being while using social media, and she suggests platforms that have built-in mechanisms that minimize bullying and negativity.
The memes Cooper uses as examples are eye-opening indeed, and I frequently found myself appalled at the random cruelty and ignorance fueling some of them. The internet and social media are here to stay, and there are a lot of good things about each of them, but social bullying and shaming are not among them. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize one’s contact with social bullies and to keep one’s sense of perspective through it all. This book helps show the way. Meme is The New Mean: Bullying Behind The Screen is most highly recommended.