When the UK’s Daily Mail ran a story written by journalist, Samantha Brick, titled:
the article became a worldwide sensation. New York Magazine, Canada’s Globe and Mail Newspaper and countless other media outlets were quick to report on the article–and the backlash following the piece going viral.
The majority of comments critique her looks, either by stating how ugly they think she is or by taking digs, like:
That woman is not even remotely beautiful. She’s cute in a housewife-who-just-had-her-hair-done way. But I would never consider her to be beautiful or even pretty.
You ladies don’t get it. If she had posted her REAL photo with this article, we all would have been too jealous to read it. So she used a picture of one of her less attractive colleagues to fool us. That must be what happened, right?
I generally have a hard time putting names to faces, but in her case, it’s all too easy.
Samantha Brick’s bad press traveled fast
Within just a few hours of the article being posted, over 1.5 million people had read the original piece and 4500 comments were generated. Some of the snarky responses have as many as 18 000 likes. Most comments were posted by usernames such as “bananarama” and likely from the safe, anonymous distance of a personal computer.
To put this in perspective, compare this engagement with the 12 comments left on a post about the up-coming James Bond film and zero responses to a Rihanna article, both also found on the Daily Mail.
24 hours later the name “Samantha Brick” continued to trend globally on Twitter as users bantered back and forth. They shared the story with friends and continued to comment on what a false sense of beauty they believe Samantha Brick walks around with.
As a teacher I saw the adult application of what so many young people experience at school; the internet became the playground and Samantha was the new girl.
Samantha Brick demonstrates what kind of story sticks
This article came to my attention while talking with my partner, Alex. I wasn’t interested in the story. I was watching how the world reacted. How does someone virtually unknown capture the world’s attention in a matter of hours when the rest of us slave for years to get ideas out and reach people?
I’m thinking of everyone from musicians struggling to break into the mainstream, despite writing soul-wrenching songs like this or self-esteem building programs like Who Is NOBODY? powered by people who are passionate about empowering youth.
Imagine what the level of interest Samantha Brick has generated could do for so many organizations, causes, businesses, talents and ideas?
Self image is bigger than Biebs (Justin Bieber).
The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them— Author unknownHe’s right.
A sense of self is why Facebook is so big. Seeing people and people seeing us and what we all think about each other sets conversation a-buzz. But none of that would be important if we valued ourselves.
Does Samantha Brick’s article serve a greater purpose?
We live in a world that can easily get the wrong end of the stick and run with it rather than look at the bigger picture. My understanding of the article was that Samantha Brick was talking about bullying. And she bravely shares her experiences to give an example. Where the conversation went from there is a reflection of the readers.
As Samantha Brick states:
… detractors have simply proved my point …
There are dynamics in every group. An ecosystem emerges whether we’re with family or friends, at school, in the office, within the broader community and beyond …
In each of these groups there are bullies, bystanders, victims and followers. As we’ve seen with the response to Samantha Brick’s article, the followers are the biggest active group (second to the inactive bystander bunch). Sadly the followers are also the most influential. The followers aren’t forming their own opinion, they ‘re taking the easy, cheap-shot stance. Saying harsh words intimidates and silences those who might otherwise step in and stop bad behaviour.
Ultimately people suffer. The desire to be accepted, the fear of confrontation and the pressure we put on ourselves to be the best we can be, can lead to isolation, low self esteem, depression, unhealthy relationships with food and the list goes on.
Samantha Bricks article is a case study for how bullying can snowball if nobody steps in.
Where does bullying begin?
Something superficial and easy to see makes for an easy target. Sometimes it’s jealousy over material things, accomplishments or yes, appearance. Sometimes it’s picking on someone who is already down. Like the children, many of whom took their own lives, whose stories are shared in the documentary Bully‘.
Samantha Brick’s article highlights so much more than people’s petty opinions over whether or not she is pretty.
Her article was about how people react to situations. And boy did we react! But don’t our words and actions say so much more about ourselves?
Those who truly value themselves rarely put others down.
What can we learn from the reaction to Samantha Brick’s article?
By becoming a “Hot or not?” debate — rather than focusing on the bullying Samantha endured off- and now on-line — Samantha Brick’s article highlights that too many people have not yet learned to value themselves. They desperately crave a stamp of approval even if it comes at another’s expense.
We need to support young people in building self esteem in a way that’s earned and lasting.
Imagine if we took all that energy and angst that’s inherent in any group and gave it some direction?
A solution to help people feel a sense of purpose and belonging
When people discover their interests and use them to help others they can feel good about themselves for healthy reasons. They can experience a sense of purpose and belonging for the kindness they’ve contributed to the world.
We need to create a culture where people are applauded for using what makes them different, to make a difference. Then students will understand what it is to be part of a community. Rather than default into knocking people down, they’ll learn to build people up.
Who Is NOBODY? was developed to celebrate each member of a group for their interests and how they use them. The goal? To break the cycle of bullying by building self esteem.
Thank you Samantha Brick!
The take-home message from the backlash of Samantha’s article is that bullying can become a runaway train if a leader doesn’t step in and reroute it. Whether or not you think Sam is beautiful on the outside, is very much beside the point. Instead we can appreciate her article’s ability to make an important topic hot.
Thanks to her story, Samantha has broken down a brick wall. She’s helped us see the challenges that lie within group dynamics. As teachers it’s a privilege to be able to give students direction and support them in discovering why EVERYBODY is SOMEBODY.
In case you read this post straight through and planned to click on the link to the band above, that should be so much bigger than it is, please listen to the song below:
What makes you unique? How have you used this quality to help others?
Change starts with kids.