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Back in school, I didn’t run fast enough, look good enough or act cool enough to be popular. I got picked on too. A lot. And in the process, I learned a valuable life lesson: kids can be evil little sods. And now, with the Internet on their side, there is no escaping the truly mean ones. Nasty comments on social networking forums, embarrassing pictures posted on class websites, whole blogs dedicated to the mockery of a single classmate, hell, even mean little sing-along videos that make fun of people— bullies have no dearth of powerful online weapons.
It makes me miss the good old days, really. Back then, you could come home from school or college, watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and let the world go hang. You didn’t need to worry whether the most popular girl in class will turn down your Facebook friend request and effectively render you a social pariah. You didn’t need to lose sleep over whether some vicious bugger was planning an online smear campaign against you.
And you didn’t need to wonder if the source of your embarrassment was getting 153 ‘likes’. Whatever insulting nickname you got called in school or college, whatever malicious rumour that was started about you, didn’t leave those corridors. It didn’t follow you around, announcing itself to your friends and family, who’d never even have heard it if some jackass hadn’t posted it on your Facebook wall or created a Twitter hashtag out of it.
No doubt about it, kids have it tougher these days. The trick is to tell them the truth about bullies, both online and offline: if you stand up to them, you get some respect. Oh, not from them, from yourself. Because at the end of the day, that’s the only kind that counts.

(This was my column published in Deccan Chronicle on 24th December.)

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