Shaq Bullies Disabled Man on Instagram

What Shaq Taught us About Online Bullying

When your job requires you to brand yourself using social media, it can be difficult to decide what to post and what to keep to yourself. While a snarky comment or off-colour remark makes you look unprofessional, a disrespectful or hurtful interaction can not only ruin your career, but can also force the recipient to re-live a humiliating moment. No matter how much influence you think you have online, a bullying remark will lose you followers and amplify the voice of those you’ve offended.

Shaq demonstrated this recently, when he decided to publish his own brand of immature and mean-spirited humor. Thousands of Instagram users and media outlets expressed shock and outrage after Shaq posted a photo of himself mocking a disabled fan. It’s obvious why this was completely unacceptable, but the incident is a good reminder that upholding respect and compassion in our online interactions is especially important if we are highly visible.

Bullying is never acceptable, but when a public figure or social media influencer bullies, it generates tons of publicity, causing a reverb effect that hurts the initial victim. Even if Shaq never meant to offend, his insensitive post got thousand of likes from jerks who actually found it funny, and attracted shares from outraged users and media outlets looking to shine a light on his bad behaviour. This amplified Shaq’s initial post, though thankfully, it has since been deleted. Can you imagine being bullied, then having the offending post re-hashed in headlines across the blogosphere?

Luckily, Jahmel Binion – the man that Shaq mocked – was resilient enough to turn such a negative experience into a learning moment. He leveraged the story’s publicity to spread awareness about online bullying and ectodermal dysplasia by forming a facebook group called Hug Don’t Judge. Although the reverb effect of online outrage may re-traumatize bullying victims, I find it encouraging that such amplification leads to awareness and makes readers into allies.

What do you think? Do you share posts that offend you? Do you think it’s worth raising awareness or should something else be done to prevent online bullying?