“Cyber bullies can hide behind a mask of anonymity online, and do not need direct physical access to their victims to do unimaginable harm.”
– Anna Maria Chávez
I would like to take some time to talk about what social media is doing to us.
Don’t get me wrong, social media has enhanced our lives in an unbelievable way, having enjoyed a considerable surge over the last decade or so, and especially so with the popularity of smartphones, meaning that we can access our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on the bus to work, in bed, walking down the street or in a cafe with a caramel latte. But what does this mean for us? Some of us are honestly addicted to our social media accounts, meaning that we are constantly connected. With just a name, a few words and a picture we can unleash ourselves and comment on whatever we please with virtually no real-life implications; except it’s not quite as clear cut as that.
It starts young. According to bullyingstatistics.org;
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying themselves.
- Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their mobile phones or the Internet.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.
They also found that:
- Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide.
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly.
- Over 80 percent of teens use a mobile phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying.
But we grow out of this behaviour, right? Wrong. Adults experience this too. Adults can be cyber bullies and cyber victims.
There are a number of different types of adult bullies, but the vast majority of their behaviour is verbal, and based on humiliation of chosen victim to ‘show them who is boss’, so to speak. The goal of an adult bully is to gain power over another person in some way and generally that involves undermining forms of verbal abuse.
We all believe we would never become something like this, but with the veil of anonymity it really is much easier than you think. It is far easier to say harsh words when you don’t have the recipient in front of you personally reacting to your words; all one needs to do is write it, then hit enter and forget about it – once it’s left our keyboard it is no longer our problem.
Notoriously hated media loudmouth Katie Hopkins receives a lot of animosity from the public for her blunt and controversial views, but has been on the receiving end of cyber bullying herself with tweets threatening to [sic] “come to her house and murder her children while she watches”. You and I reading this can easily say that messages like this are inappropriate and unacceptable, but the truth is this; absolutely none of us know the implications of what we say once we’ve clicked ‘enter’ or ‘send’ and nestled safely inside a closed profile we cut ourselves off from retaliation. Sometimes our messages aren’t this overt, but maybe the bitchy comment one of us said superficially for effect and then someone else backed up just cut its recipient deeper than we intended. Maybe that was their last straw, but you’ll never know.
The bottom line is that we all walk our own path in life and offer a unique perspective. We need to be done casting judgment now and all of us (myself included) need to be mindful of our impact on the real-time people on the other side of the anonymity veil.