Part of the reason Stephanie Dolce enjoyed Twitter was because that, as a sports fan, it allowed her to read about her favorite sports teams, and even interact with those who cover the teams.
As a New York Yankees fan, Dolce, of Nyack, followed many of the team’s beat writers from different newspapers. While on Twitter, she also observed how quickly multiple users could turn on someone for something as simple as reaching out and talking to another person.
Dolce didn’t think it would happen to her. Eventually, Dolce grew interested in one of the Yankees beat writers and wanted to ask him out on a date. Dolce spoke to another writer about it through what she thought was private messages, but soon enough, another woman she didn’t know told the writer of Dolce’s intentions and started calling her a stalker. She saw someone on Twitter message that same writer to say she had heard about his “stalker girl.”
Things went quiet for a few months, and Dolce noticed the girl who called her a stalker had others turn on her, a cycle she had seen multiple times at that point. She tweeted out her observation on the vicious cycle, and the girl thought the Tweet was specifically about her. Dolce was soon bombarded with horrible messages from people she didn’t know and never interacted with.
“I can imagine if I was a 15-year-old girl, I can understand why people start thinking suicide,” Dolce said. “They don’t know there’s a life off the computer. People you don’t even know can be so vicious.”
Dolce deleted her Twitter account and eventually started up a new one that she set on private. She hasn’t had issues since then.
But she has wanted to spread awareness of her previous issues, as well as the dangers of social media and cyber bullying. That led Dolce to write “Victim No More,” her third book. Her first, “A Bird Eye’s View,” deals with dating and her second, “Sex, Lies and Twitter,” talks about the social networking site. “Victim No More” touches on both topics, but focuses more on bullying, bringing up Dolce’s own experiences and others.
“I was a victim of it myself,” she said.” Almost every other day there is another story about it. It was happening to me, but also happening to tons of other people.”
It will be released Oct. 8th to coincide with Anti-Bullying Month.
She has done a lot of research on cyber bullying for the book and said that while there is some bullying on Facebook, there is more on Twitter. Dolce said that in her research, she found that one in four people on Twitter have been cyber bullied.
“On Twitter, you can be anybody,” she said. “I had an account named Derek Jeter ask me to meet up in Manhattan for drinks. Now, obviously that’s not Derek Jeter. I asked who it was and he or she, I don’t even know, said they couldn’t tell, but we knew some of the same people. I’m obviously not going to meet someone in the city without knowing who it is.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 9th, Dolce will be at the Pearl River Library for a workshop called “Be A Friend” for kids ages from five to eight. Dolce leads various workshops about bullying. Her “Be A Friend” workshop asks kids to define what they think a friend is. It doesn’t touch on cyber bullying because Dolce thinks kids in that age range are a bit young for that. She focuses more on bullying away from the computer.
Dolce said that from ages one to four, kids are picking up things from home and any judgements they make about other people come from things they’ve seen or heard at home. At her “Be A Friend” workshop, they talk about interacting with other kids and read a book that asks a lot of questions the children will have to answer.
“If someone comes up to you on the playground and makes a joke about your shirt, maybe it’s just a joke,” Dolce said. “If they do it one time and then not again, then we need to differentiate between a joke and bullying. We have to teach kids that not everything is bullying. But if someone comes up to you and makes a joke about your clothes everyday, or regularly, then we need to teach kids that that’s not something they should think is okay.”
For Anti-Bullying Month, Dolce is running a campaign called “Be A Friend, Not A Bully” on her Facebook page. She is asking people to send in inspirational stories of how they broke the cycle of bullying and paid it forward instead. The winner will have their story published on Dolce’s website and get a signed copy of her book.
Dolce has also worked with BullyPolice.org, a volunteer organization that advocates for bullied children and works to try and get anti-cyber bullying state laws passed. She said she met with State Sen. David Carlucci to tell him her story of cyber bullying. New York State passed an anti-cyber bullying law earlier this year which stated that even if the bullying occurred outside school, if a teacher found out about it, that teacher will have to report the incident to school administrators.
“I’m really trying to get myself involved and spreading the message around,” Dolce said.