Three million clicks and counting ... There has been a wave of support in response to a simple video posted online by a German teenager who is asking his peers to stand up to bullying. DW takes a look.
On February 8 at 2:55 p.m., Benjamin "Drews" Fokken posted a video on his Facebook timeline, a pretty regular occurrence for the 19-year-old, who enjoys covering popular songs ranging from Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" to Silbermond's "Ja" - and posting his renditions to his profile.
The songs do pretty well, with Fokken averaging in the high hundreds for most videos, but what happened with the clip he uploaded on February 8, "Against Bullying!" blew even his wildest dreams out of the water.
Fokken's video was clicked more than 3 million times within five days. Over 100,000 people have shared and "liked" it.
Staring into the camera with an expression of vague melancholy, Fokken holds up papers with the following handwritten messages:
People! Nobody is worth less than anyone else just because he or she:
Has a handicap / May not have much money / May not be very smart / May not have the best figure / Is gay, lesbian or bisexual / Has a different skin color / Has a different religion / Comes from a different country
Victims of bullying often feel lonesome and left alone. They hurt their bodies because they think they are different. They have thoughts about suicide!
How would - you - feel about that?
Only TOGETHER can we CHANGE things! =)
'Important and necessary'
The wave of support the video has elicited has been covered extensively in German media, with Fokken giving interviews to a number of outlets about why he felt moved to make it and share it with his peers.
"Don't worry - I'm not in danger of committing suicide," he told Spiegel Online, admitting that he had cut his arms with a razor blade before. For years, he suffered from verbal attacks by his peers: "Name-calling, because of how round my body and face are. ... But only very seldom have I thought that I didn't want to be alive in the world anymore."
Fokken's video is a kind of homage to Amanda Todd, a Canadian girl who posted a similar clip to YouTube in which she explained the suffering she went through as a result of bullying.
"There is a dramatic difference between Benjamin's clip and that of Amanda Todd," said Uwe Leest, who chairs the Bündnis gegen Cybermobbing, a German initiative against Cyberbullying. "Tragically, this young girl killed herself after publishing her video. Benjamin has used Facebook to send a strong signal in defense of the victims of bullying. And he deserves our respect for this."
The Bündnis gegen Cybermobbing says that one in four young people in Germany suffers severely from cyberbullying at some point during puberty. Leest told DW that the attention Fokken's video has received displays the "great dimension of this social problem," adding that it wasn't only important as a show of support for victims, but rather - and perhaps more significantly - as a way to show bullies how much their bullying hurts.
"What Benjamin has done is incredibly vital for our society. His courage to ask: 'How would you feel?' to the people who have caused him pain. This was important and necessary," Leest said.
Fokken himself has described the fear that accompanied posting his video online. "At first I was afraid that it would all start again. The bullying, the name-calling, all that crap," he told Spiegel Online.
Going by the flood of reactions - almost exclusively positive - to his video, exactly the opposite was the case. "It's the start of a new life for me," he told Radio Bremen, audibly pleased that this time he let his courage do the talking.