Brittany asks: I just started summer vacation, and I’m excited. There was this girl in my class who wears make-up and dyes her hair (we’re talking about fifth grade here). I also have a YouTube channel, and I made a video of me and my friend doing random stuff. At one point in it, I told that girl to jump off a cliff. I was just playing, but when this kid in my class found it, everyone saw it. It was a while ago when I posted it, but people started taking it seriously. Near the end of the year, her mom came on a field trip, and I got chewed out. She told me to take it off of YouTube before she told the principal, but I couldn’t and it never came up again. The girl also said she was moving, but she’s still one of my Facebook friends. Should I be happy, scared, or ashamed right now?
Oh Brittany, this is a lot! Let me divide it into three answers:
First, about your posting that video. This is a huge problem, as you probably know. Nobody who ever lived before now ever experienced anything like the Internet. It used to be you could say something like “That mutt across the street stinks like he rolled in a litterbox,” and even if everyone in the neighborhood repeated it, we’d be talking about relatively few ever knowing about it. But today, something goes online, and it’s instantly viewable around the world, and hundreds, thousands, millions, billions could watch it. So the good news is that you got this experience at a very early age, and so can learn the big lesson: Be really careful about what you post online. Especially if you say anything against anyone, you’ll have to live with what you say forever. You probably know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Well the equivalent when it comes to posting is: Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to see and hear!
Second: Taking things off YouTube. I’ve never posted anything on YouTube, but I would imagine it’s pretty easy to take things off if you know how. Does anyone reading this know how to do that?
Third: Your final question: “Should I be happy, scared, or ashamed right now?” If there’s one thing I want most to push onto you, and all my other readers, Brittany, it’s this: Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to feel. Your feelings are your own. If you’re feeling scared, then that’s just what you ought to feel. If you’re feeling happy or ashamed, same deal. And it would make sense to me if you’re feeling all three at the same time.
So what I’d like you to do is to sit down, let yourself be in a quiet place alone for a while, and take a few deep breaths… and ask yourself “What do I feel?” And whatever answer comes up, that’s your truth. And if the feelings are good, then that’s fine. But if they’re bad, then that’s a sign that there’s something you need to do. Maybe you should write your friend and tell her how sorry you are that you hurt her, and that you’ve learned a lot from this. Or maybe you should take that video off of YouTube and replace it with one of you telling your viewers what you learned from this experience. Or maybe you should invite that friend out for a snack and talk face-to-face.
But whatever it is, it should come from your real heart. Telling someone you’re sorry when you really aren’t doesn’t do anyone any good. Like a couple of times when I’ve eaten off Handsome’s plate. I didn’t like getting caught, but there was no point in my apologizing to him – the fact that I was still licking my lips kinda gave away that that wouldn’t have been true!
Good Luck, and thanks for your openness!