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Third Place Winner Ailís McCarthy

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook once stated: “When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place”. Having researched social-networking sites with regard to the issue of cyber-bullying, I agree with Zuckerberg’s statement. I believe that when power and a voice are given to everyone of us, we achieve a just and empowering system: a good system.

Cyber-bullying, according to Professor O’ Moore of T.C.D, refers not only to repeated verbal or psychological aggression carried out using the Internet, mobile phones or other technical devices but also once-off aggression of an extreme nature. Sending mean or threatening messages and uploading nasty posts or photos on a website or chat room are among the commonest forms of cyber-bullying.

The issue of cyber-bullying in relation to social-networking sites has been very much in the public eye following the tragic deaths of Ciara Pugsley (15) and Erin Gallagher (13) in the autumn and winter of 2012. These two Irish teenagers committed suicide, having been cyber-bullied on the controversial social-network site, Ask.fm. These facts cannot be denied but the blame for suicide can never be fully apportioned to social-networking sites. There are many studies to substantiate this view.

A Canadian study published in October 2012 has shown that being tormented online is rarely the main factor involved in cyber-bullying linked suicides. According to John C. Le Blanc, a professor at Dalhouse University in Halifax, who conducted the research, “Although cyber-bullying is a new and fairly awful modern manifestation of bullying … it is not a cause of suicide”. The study also revealed that in most causes of cyber-bullying linked suicides, other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying were involved. From this research alone, in relation to cyber-bullying and social-networking sites, it can be seen that they are not the cause of suicide. This affirms my support of Zuckerberg’s assertion that the system is in a good place.

There is a marked difference between cyber-bullying and traditional bullying. Previously, there was no getting away from the repeated psychological or physical abuse of bullies. It is difficult for the victim of traditional bullying to report the conduct to a responsible adult because of the paralysing fear of inevitable consequences. If no-one is aware of the bullying, finding a solution is impossible. Whilst all types of bullying are always wrong and unacceptable, there is a distinct advantage to being the victim of cyber-bullying rather than traditional. Online bullying is much easier to prove, to tackle and to solve. I believe people should remember that social-networking sites give us all equal power and a voice. Victims have just as much power and voice as bullies. In contrast to traditional bullying where the victims are unable to prove a dirty look or a nasty remark, a message posted online can remain available, even if it is deleted. The victim has power: power that verifies that the system is in a good place.

According to D.I.T and Kids online study, being the target of hurtful and nasty messages is the most common form of cyber-bullying reported. Facebook, one of the most popular social-networking sites for young people, provides multiple features to prevent and stop cyber-bullying. If you are a victim of nasty Facebook messages, you have the power to block a certain person from becoming your friend and viewing your online activities. You have the ability to send a report directly to Facebook and they will handle the problem for you. You also have the power to log off and step away from the situation. This will give the bully no satisfaction whatsoever.

If you opt not to choose silence, social-network sites, like Facebook, give you a voice. You and your friends can intervene to prevent cyber-bullying from happening again. Screen-grabbing a nasty message and reporting it to a responsible adult ultimately shows this tremendous power. Clearly, social-networking sites are tackling the problem of cyber-bullying, not fuelling it. This shows us yet again that when everyone’s voice is heard and everyone has equal power, the system usually ends up in a good place, a place that is fair and balanced.

With regard to the social-network site Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg stated: “Facebook wasn’t originally created to be a company; it was built to accomplish a social mission; to make the world more open and connected”. This fact cannot be disputed. Social-network sites, like Facebook, allow people all across the world to interact with each other in ways previously never thought possible. Their invention is having major positive impacts on people’s lives. In the words of Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, “The internet and social media are fantastic tools which bring benefits to so many people”. They are evidence of a system that has ended up in a really good place.

Social-networking is a new and fresh way of communication. Though a minority is using their new-found voice and power to harm others, the majority are using theirs in the right way. Online bullies are being taught a lesson that traditional bullies never got. That message is that consequences will come their way. This is further proof of the system ending up in a good place.

On the evidence I have provided, that social-networking sites are not the sole cause of suicide, as media would mislead us to believe, on the evidence that online bullying is much easier to address and that the sites are tackling the issue of cyber-bullying through various features, it is true to say that the system is in a good place. The majority of people are using their voice and power in a positive manner and cyber-bullies are facing the consequences of their actions. For all of these reasons, I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that: “When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.


Validity of the argument:

The argument is valid because each of the premises support Ailish’s conclusion:

(1.) The link between online bullying and suicide is overstated; (2.) Online bullying is easier to prove and resolve than traditional forms of bullying; (3.) Victims have the power to fight bullying; (4.) Social networking sites are tackling the problem of syber-bullying; (5.) Social networking sites have had positive benefits for many people; (6.) most people use social networking sites in a positive way; (7.) Online bullies are being caught and dealt with; therefore, it can be concluded that “When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place".

Soundness of the argument:

The argument is sound if the argument is valid and the premises on which the conclusion is founded are true.

For the most part, we can say that each of the premises that support Ailish's conclusion are credible, though not all are well supported. The best supported case was against the claim for the causal link between online bullying and suicide, though one wonders if this case needed to be made had Ailish focused more on supporting the argument that most internet/social media use is for positive social purposes.

The repetition in this essay was perhaps the essay's greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. The repetition lent force to the argument, but at times came across as too insistent, too emphatic, too unbalanced, a bit too biased. Having said that, in some ways, it was the best organised of the three winning arguments as evidenced by the review of the support for the conclusion in the final paragraph.