Many users of the internet and social media are having to deal with a whole new level of bullying – cyber-bullying. It is a very real, and scary problem. The internet allows us so much information at our fingertips: ideas, communication, art, reading, you name it. Sadly, it has a dark side too by allowing people to hide behind the anonymity that the big world wide web provides. The ugly thoughts that sometimes pop into your mind (come on, it happens to the best of us, we’re all human!) now can come to life by being a “troll” or hiding behind a private social media account with a pseudonym, and speaking your mind with malice.
Whilst the internet allows us the joy of being able to reach family and friends far and wide, it’s also a platform for intimidation. Candid photos of your “enemy” going viral, videos of private activities (I won’t go into detail here!) making the rounds at school. People filming vicious brawls and posting to YouTube, and the onslaught of comments streaming in, before it’s shut down. It’s a scary concept – once something has been on the internet, it’s virtually impossible to remove it so it’s never seen again – there is something very permanent about the big, bad internet! And it is on this platform, that a new form of bullying takes place. What better way to take revenge on someone who hurt your feelings than by putting an embarrassing photo up on Facebook? Passive-aggressive Facebook statuses can have a whole classroom second guessing themselves, whilst in the corner we have a teenager who is upset because his girlfriend recently changed her relationship status from being in one, to “it’s complicated” and somehow, along the way, we’ve learnt to send the strongest message without actually physically speaking to someone.
What can YOU do? You can USE your privacy settings. They are there to keep your content private, and to ensure you don’t get weirdos trolling you. If someone wants to be your friend, they can send you a request but for your own safety and to avoid unwanted attention, use these privacy settings – they’re there to protect you. Of course, there is little you can do about a photo that someone else has of you. For this reason, there is a reporting function. You can report any content (whether it is about you, or something that is offensive to you, like an inappropriate picture, i.e. porn, cruelty, etc) and Facebook have a team that assess these reports and even give you feedback on steps taken.
It doesn’t just stop there though. One of my favourite idols, Martin Luther King, said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people”. So whilst a shared photo of you on the toilet back in 2007 is not quite recorded in history as the greatest tragedy, it is silence that can perpetuate the problem. More apt, and also said by Martin Luther King (twice in one article, you’re welcome!) was, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. If you see someone being bullied (cyber or otherwise!), speak up. Report it to Facebook, report it to your teacher or school and do something about it. You may think that saying nothing means you’re not getting involved, but just one person saying “Hey, that’s not cool, bro” may generate more applause than you think.
If you’re a victim of cyber bullying, here are some links that you may find helpful, and where to find help:
Written by Shelley Bolle
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