Arment Dietrich

Viral Video Campaign: It Gets Better

By: Arment Dietrich | October 28, 2010 | 
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If you have not heard of this video campaign targeting gay youths, you must not go online often. Thousands of people, including handfuls of celebrities, have made YouTube videos letting gay teenagers know that “it gets better.”

Just four weeks ago, after the horrible news of tragic teenage suicides (due to being bullied to the point where they thought ending their lives was the easier decision), Dan Savage, a homosexual sex columnist, started the viral campaign with messages of how it does get better, also pointing viewers to the Trevor Project, a toll-free telephone line for gay youths at risk.

According to the New York Times, “The YouTube channel for ‘It Gets Better’ is the third largest source of traffic to the Trevor Project, and there has been a great increase in calls in the last month.”

Videos such as Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns holding back tears telling his story and Chelsea Handler saying that being gay is OK, are just some of the popular messages that are getting through to people. It’s fantastic to see everyday citizens getting together to do what they can and using social media to help others. But it hurts to read that the teachers, parents, and principals of the kids who took their lives knew that they were getting bullied.

What are we doing to get through to these bullies that their actions might end up in the loss of a life?

Is there something we can do to reach these kids? With the success of the “It Gets Better” campaign, can we piggy-back off of that in a way to let these bullies know that their lives could get worse? That they could suffer from the burden of something as heavy as death for as long as they live.

I applaud Dan Savage and all those who have made a video and taken the pledge on the site. It is obvious that this powerful campaign is helping. Now let’s take it one step further and do the hard part. Let’s spark change. Let’s gather ideas here and we’ll collect some of the top thoughts to present to Mr. Savage and see where we can help.

What are some of your ideas on reaching and getting through to the bullies?

  • Here in Sweden we teach kids from a very young age that its socially acceptable to be gay. As early as kindergartan. I love the fact that Mr Teen can bring his friends home, including his openly gay friend, and no one bats an eyelid. Friends, parents and all the other kids. I hope it becomes as open as this all around the world. But it takes courage and legislation.

  • KevinVandever

    Thanks for the post! I think you are correct. Getting through to the bullies is the hard part. I’m no expert, but it seems that there so much depth and complexity behind what makes a kid become a bully. When I coached youth football just outside of Chicago, I saw, and worked with, some of these kids and they were usually insecure and non-trusting of teammates. As coaches, we tried to teach all the kids to trust one another and understand the need to work together to achieve success. By season’s end, we usually had them on the same page and the insecurity and lack of trust from the bullies would disappear. However, it was easy to control things 12 to 15 hours a week on the football field and even though I believe our lessons could be carried beyond the football field, I didn’t go home with these kids nor did I attend school with them so I really don’t know how successful I was.

    That said, I think the way to deal with bullies and really try to get through to them is to attempt to look at life from their eyes, understand what they’re thinking and go from there. I imagine it takes a lot of patience and kindness but also some level of respect from the kid to even open up the door. It is opening this door that is the trouble. How does one get a bully to want to be helped? The key, I think, goes back to understanding life from his/her point of view. What are his/her interests? Who are their heroes? What’s the home life like? Answering these types of questions might go a long way toward helping the kids. Again, I am no expert and I don’t want to trivialize what it takes to be successful, but these are some of my thoughts on the subject.

    Kevin.

  • There are several lessons here. As the parent of a gay teen I’m strongly supportive of the message and know it’s absolutely crucial. But you don’t have to be down withou our cause to see the strength of this campaign.

    This has been a huge issue in the abstract for a long time, but we’re seeing a very human side to it that was missing in all the politics and grandstanding. People, working together because they simply felt htey had to, have turned that issue around. It’s simple and direct. They tell their stories plainly and let you draw your own conclusions.

    This is the very best of social media and viral campaigns no matter how you look at it. Watch how each of the individual stories becomes a bigger narrative almost spontanesously. It does get better – simple and straight up.

    Naturally I hope the message itself gets out. But with a campaign this powerful, how can it not? Thank you, Dan Savage and everyone who is part of this.

  • jelenawoehr

    I think the bullies need to hear “It gets better,” too. Many of them aren’t getting love or attention at home. Some kids are for sure just bad seeds, but more often they are learning violence from their parents whether from parents abusing each other, abusing them, or simply ignoring them. The bullies don’t know it gets better, so to get to the same level as others instead of raising themselves up they tear anyone who looks like an easy target down.

    I’m a big believer in animal-assisted therapy and nature therapy for kids with anger issues (obviously not the seriously violent kids who torture animals, but the bullies who use hitting and mean words to get their way). Teach a bully to train a dog and they learn that positive reinforcement and friendship go a lot farther than yelling or hitting. Take a bully on a hike and they learn that they can overcome a challenge just by keeping on going, and that anger just wastes energy they need to move forward. Get a bully around horses and they see 1200 pound animals that are bigger than them and could hurt them, but choose to prefer to make friends with them instead.

    I was part of an equine contact program for girls in a residential living facility that dealt with severe emotional issues, and the girl with the worst anger issues benefited most from spending time with the horses. She learned that if she wanted to be liked by “her” horse she had to be calm and gentle. She came into the program with an arm in a cast from punching the wall and with no release date from her living center in sight. She took the program three times and after the third time she contacted her biological mother, forged a relationship with her through kindness, and left the residential treatment center to start a new life with the mother she had never known.

  • ginidietrich

    I don’t know if high school would be the same if there were no bullies, but I think this message should extend further than gay youths. It could be the same for kids with handicaps, kids from broken homes, kids in lower income families, kids in higher income families. Yeah…everyone. We all get bullied. We all judge others. It’s time to begin treating one another with respect as human beings. Perhaps America should take lessons from Sweden, as @jonbuscall suggests.

  • Elizabeth

    I agree– while these messages are great, we need to emphasize not only that it gets better but that we have to CHOOSE to make it better– that there is some level of agency in all of this. Likewise with bullies. I’d venture to bet, though, that many would not consider themselves bullies if they were asked. The “it gets better” message may be a way to reach bullies, too, who via these videos, realizes (maybe even subconsciously) the damage they’re doing.

    As an aside, here is a humorous take on the “it gets worse” concept for bullies: http://youtu.be/sJGkPrUOnbA

    Finally, we must not make “it gets better” a fad or the latest celebrity bandwagon, which we’ll all forget about in a few months. These gay suicides have not spiked in the last month, the COVERAGE of them has.

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