It shouldn’t take 13 Reasons Why to get people to realise it’s important to be nice

The new Netflix series looks at the effects of bullying

Secondary school can be a pretty rough place for everyone. Even if you’re lucky enough to be ‘popular’, there are fall-outs, bitching and general stress fuelled by teenage ‘angst’.

But with the new Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s book ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, we get a deeper insight into what it’s like to be one of the less lucky ones, someone who is targeted by bullying, or rumours. Someone who feels alone and vulnerable because of people being unkind and thoughtless.

Some already have this insight because they experienced it first hand, but for others it is less easy to understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of ‘harmless banter’.

Regardless of the criticisms the series has received for its portrayal of mental health, it’s made people think about what comes from bullying. For young teens school can seem like your whole life. You spend six hours a day there. The people there are in your phone and your laptop when you go home. Reputation is important.

The story shows how things that seem small to some can actually have a huge impact on the person targeted. For example, a group of people could spend only three minutes of their day making fun of someone’s shoes.  The person wearing those shoes may think about it with every step they take for the rest of the day.

It’s great that the consequences of bullying are made a prominent issue by the series, but it’s a shame that it takes the idea of someone taking their own life to get it to resonate with people. It’s a shame that for some, it’s the fear of feeling responsible for someone’s death that may encourage them against bullying, rather than the fact they are hurting people and effecting the mental health of others.

Like the main character, Hannah, I was the new kid – several times. I felt what it was like to feel alone while being surrounded by people. I’d moved from a countryside town to a big city so I acted and spoke ‘weirdly’. I was an easy target and at that age it feels like everything. Like what these people think about you or say about you is everything.

Once secondary school is over it’s easier to see that being targeted and treated badly is not a reflection on yourself but a reflection on those who treated you that way. You may learn to love the things people made you feel insecure about and embrace your individuality, you may find others that embrace it with you.

Unfortunately that doesn’t stop the fact that people can be unkind at any age. It also doesn’t stop the long term effects these bad experiences can have on people.

It’s impossible to avoid upsetting people sometimes, but what’s not impossible is being a considerate person, which is lesson people should take away from 13 Reasons Why.

University of Exeter

The Tab Exeter

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