Hey girls! This is Part 1 of a special two-part episode! We have our very first guest on 10 for Tweens — it’s Nate Webb from Bullies Be Gone. He is a high school counselor and a bully expert. In this episode, Part 1, Nate explains:
- How Nate became a bully expert and @bulliesbe.gone
- Why people act like bullies
- What’s the solution
Nate, thank you so much for being on the show!
NATE: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. This is so cool. I’m so happy to be your first guest.
So, how did you become an expert in what you do?
NATE: I’m known for being a bully expert and resiliency expert. Back in 2018, I started Bullies Be Gone. Initially, it was just me sharing tips and mindsets and things to help bully victims get through what they’re doing. Because when I was a little kid, I was bullied relentlessly, all throughout school. In first grade, I was pushed off the playground equipment. In fifth grade, I was stabbed in the butt by a pen. In sixth grade, I got stuffed in the garbage can. In eighth grade, the football captains held me down while the rest of the team took turns kicking me in the crotch. It was not a great time. But I was able to rise above.
Then as I went along in adulthood, I realized there’s a lot of kids that are facing similar situations where either they’re getting bullied, they’re experiencing unkindness, they’re struggling mentally. A lot of the mindsets and things that I had when I was a kid, that helped me get through these, were a lot of the same things that could help them get through their adversities in their lives so that they could also become better and not bitter.
Wow, what a journey and experience. Because, like you said, it could have just made you bitter, and you didn’t let it have that power over you. You didn’t let it determine your trajectory. That’s incredible. I love that you are now helping others who are struggling with it. I feel like today, it’s even harder to be an adolescent than it was when we were kids.
NATE: Oh yes, it is 10 times harder because they’ve got a lot of different things going for them. I go around and speak at schools, and for a lot of kids, their whole sense of self-worth is based off of what they think their online following — likes, shares, heart reactions, whatever it may be — is based off of. So a lot of the stuff, when I go speak at schools, is just trying to let these kids know that your self-worth is not dependent on some fake online profile. But yeah, it’s way harder to be a kid right now.
Have you noticed a difference in ways you see girls experience bullying from other girls vs. from boys?
NATE: Girls are typically less violent than boys when it comes to how they mistreat each other. Girls experience a lot more social-emotional bullying. Especially because we’re in the age of online, everyone experiences social-emotional bullying because it’s online. People talking about each other, trying to defame each other, trying to smother their reputations, etc. With girls it’s a lot more of the social aspect, being excluded intentionally from groups, like, “The popular girls are saying these things about me and everyone’s going to hate me.”
When people are insecure, they tend to lash out.
Social media is a magnifying glass, it amplifies what is already there. So if you get an already insecure population and put them on social media, they are going to destroy each other because they are insecure and they project those insecurities on other people. Because they’re insecure, they’re going to lash out and try to bring other people down because misery loves company.
Sadly there’s this idea that, if I put someone else down, that puts me up or above.
NATE: Right. Some people try and make other people feel small, so they can feel big. And it always backfires in their faces. It happened to me when I was in the thick of it. In seventh or eighth grade I had the genius idea, “What if I changed who I was and acted like the people who were mistreating me? Maybe they’d been nice to me?” Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong, and then they’ll be nice to me if I just act like them. So I started telling off-color jokes and I found myself being someone who I wasn’t proud of to impress a group of people I didn’t even care about, just to get acceptance. I feel like a lot of these kids are doing the same thing. They are doing things that make them miserable, just to gain acceptance from people they don’t even like, because they care so much about the reputation online.
That’s so sad, because during those years, they’re trying to figure out themselves.
NATE: Oh yeah, they don’t even know who they are. The hard thing is a lot of kids allow the internet and the bullies to define who they are before they know who they are. That’s one of the pivotal things my dad asked me that helped me kind of change my trajectory. He asked, “Do you know who you are? Because if you have a self definition for yourself, no one can change that truth.” The haters, the trolls, the bullies, they can say whatever they want, but it’s going to fall on deaf ears because you know who you are for yourself. I tell parents, “You need to love your kids louder than the internet can hate them.” And I tell kids,
“Because if you don’t love yourself, the internet is going to make you hate yourself, because the internet’s job is to keep your attention, and that’s by cutting down your self esteem.”
Yeah, because then it sucks you in even more. Somehow we think that we can get more understanding of ourselves, get more validation of ourselves through this screen, through these hearts, through these fire emojis. And then when you don’t get them, then you’re you’re desperate for more.
NATE: Exactly. When I talk to people, they’re like, “What’s the solution to all this bullying, to unkindness and all this stuff? And I’m like, “Well, it’s kind of simple — it’s connection. Kids crave connection. The reason they’re online is the craving to connect to someone on a level that makes them feel seen and makes them feel heard. It opens up some dopamine, it gives them a big dopamine rush every time they get an alert, they get a text message, they get something. They’re online and they’re trying to get acceptance from people that they don’t even know because they want that connection.
The solution really is finding connection in real life.
Because that is going to give you a lot more clarity, it’s going to give you a lot more fulfillment than any like or share or follow ever will. It’s helping kids disconnect from the internet and connecting with people in real life who lift them up. Being selfish with their time, not spending too much time with those folks, in real life or online, that are going to be cutting them down because ain’t nobody got time for that.
It’s true. I’m curious if you can shed some more light on why kids treat each other this way. The bullies, the mean girls, the relational aggression — where does that come from? Everybody experiences it, and I feel like everybody’s been on both sides of it, too, at some point or another, so why?
NATE: There are those that I talked about that are just insecure. They’re insecure about themselves and so they try to feel big, and in the process, try to make other people feel small because they want to feel big because they’re super insecure. There’s people who see new people, they see new things, they see change, and they see that as a threat — a threat to their dominance, a threat to their popularity, a threat to their normality. And so they try to establish dominance over that new thing, whether it be a new person or whatever it may be, to try and make sure that they don’t mess up their current situation because they are insecure and scared that might happen. Then there’s those people that were bullied, that were ostracized by society, by their peers, and they don’t have a support group, so they lash out because that’s all they’ve ever known.
100% of kids resort to being unkind because they have not been exposed to enough kindness. If you expose a child to more kindness, they will always choose kindness in return.
Because they’ll see, “Oh my gosh, this is so much better!” I mean, in “Monsters, Inc,” they’re like, “Oh scream power is dope!” Then they get Boo to laugh and she lights up the whole factory, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, laugh power is so much better!” Same kind of deal. Bullies think that being unkind and cutting people down is going to give them power. In reality, if we can expose them to enough kindness in their life, they will see that gives them so much more power than anything else.
There’s a lot more we have to discuss about bullies with Nate Webb from Bullies Be Gone. The rest of this interview will continue in Episode 19 of 10 for Tweens.