It is an odd twist of fate we see and hear about all too often: friends turning on friends in order to become more popular. Children anywhere from 8-18 who have been friends for long periods of time turning on each other, unfortunately, is becoming less shocking because it is more frequent.’In the case of Julie, it happened literally overnight and she was horrified.
From the time Julie, (now 14) was nine, she and Sarah had been very good friends. Then the summer after eighth grade, Sarah decided she needed a new “brand” for high school. In a nanosecond, Sarah, one day in early June, decided to “treat” three very popular girls, with whom she was not really friendly, to manicures and lunch in their suburban town. She strategically excluded Julie. Desperate to be popular, she spent the whole day with the three girls filling them with stories of “cool” things she had done (many not true) and all of the cool possessions she had.Her next set of steps was even more unfortunate. She started sharing embarrassing stories about her friend Julie – frequently. The stories made their way to Facebook and from there they simply went viral. At this point Julie was completely unaware because she had been away at camp. In July, she returned home and opened up Facebook to find out that her reputation had been ruined. Following that, she was in a store in her town and a group of girls said hello condescendingly, asked her about the stories, laughed and walked away. It got much worse and humiliating from that point on.
Immediately following all of this, she began to get rude texts. Her other close friends did not participate, but did not defend. They were worried going into high school about being branded as the friend of the girl everybody hates.Finally Julie told her mother. Her parents shut down her social media accounts and contacted the bullying girls’ parents. While the overt bullying stopped, the damage was done. Sarah half-heartedly apologized and stayed loyal to her new and very popular crowd. Julie had a rough freshman year, then found new friends and became happier in her sophomore year.
The lesson here is obvious: teach our children that popularity is not important and to stand up for a friend when they need you. Be a leader, not a follower. Do the right thing. Not everybody has to be friends forever, but help our children understand that you don’t need to be mean, exclude or put down to be happy. In fact, just the opposite is true.
A friend is a precious privilege, lets teach our children how to respect it. See our book for solutions that work: “When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions” (available on amazon and www.solutionsforbullying.com)