Is Cyberbullying Real?

Unless and until our society recognizes cyberbullying for what it is, the suffering of thousands of silent victims will continue.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter may be the main social networks used to keep in touch with friends, but, worryingly, they are also the main sites used for cyberbullying and internet trolling.

Cyberbullying has been emerging as a growing concern for quite some years now. With the power of anonymity, people can verbally attack others over social networking sites, most often going after students with low self-esteem or a low circle of friends. These are not exclusive targets, but there’s a general consensus that these are the groups that are most affected by cyberbullying. Anybody can be a victim- although it’s the young teens that are most vulnerable.

Cyberbullying can affect its victims in more ways than you can imagine. Besides bringing down self esteem, it alienates you from social crowds, and in some cases, it may push people to severe depression and suicide. And, no it’s not as simple as ‘just turning the computer off’ or ‘simply looking away’. Think of it this way: if someone hurts your feelings on the phone, is stepping away from the phone going to magically fix it? No, because the issue lies with the person and the interaction, not the phone itself. Similarly, cyberbullying doesn’t end when you turn off the computer. Our real lives are so intertwined with social networks now that if you poison someone’s network, it will poison his or her real life. Besides, asking the bullied victim to not use the computer or advising them to refrain from going online is a rather harsh demand for obvious reasons. The focus should be on fixing the bully issue, not putting the onus on the victims. It’s even worse when the bullies wear the shroud of anonymity. After all, how do you deal with a bully when you don’t even know who he or she is. Cyberbullying is visceral too. Bullies can go out of their way to post unflattering pictures of you or paint you in a negative light in ways that they can’t do face-to-face.

What’s worse it that there’s not much that can be done about it. Cyberbullying is still protected by freedom of speech, and as long as a bully isn’t crossing over into obvious libel territory, they can’t really be touched. Even then, if you had a libel case, it is costly, expensive, and hard to prove.

So, why do people cyberbully? Is it out of jealousy or hatred? Or is it just the law of the jungle that the strong bullies the weak?

It is a myth that the strong bully the weak. It is those who cannot handle their stress with grace, who attack the gentle natured. The most clear, and psychological aspect is that they feel tough behind a computer screen, and believe that anything they say won’t affect them negatively in the grand scheme. It is a sort of thought process that most people employ when cyberbullying. Think of it this way. How much more likely are you to argue or even insult someone online than you are to do in person? You would probably feel “safer” attacking someone online as opposed to in-person, and understandably so. They could do it to feel better about themselves. A lot of bullying cases, IRL or online are usually fed by insecurity or hatred towards oneself. Again, most bullies have some underlying problem which they believe can be quelled by being aggressive online. It’s also much easier since they don’t have to worry about other factors and feel they are safe from consequence. Lastly, they could just be looking for attention. It is evident that most cyberbullies attack others for the sake of attention, and the ability to instigate a response out of a victim.

So, if you ever encounter a cyberbully, Know that it’s not your fault and Don’t respond or retaliate. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you, and you don’t want to empower a bully. Further, you should save the evidence and Use available tech tools to either block the person and/or report the person to the service.

Lets never forget that words impact people emotionally, and how you feel emotionally affects how you are physically. Pulling someone down will never help you reach the top.

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A keyboard away doesn’t make it okay.

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