cyber bullying

Words that Wound

The inner-workings of a cyber-bully’s mind

“Cyber-bullying is the use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumours or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.” – Wikipedia

Imagine, you’re having a heated argument with your mother. You’re so furious and it’s about to boil over. You cannot hurt her because she is your mother, so you pick up the mug on your dresser and throw it at the wall. It breaks to a million pieces. Now compare this with what a bully would do. They are angry, sad, hurt and they cannot perhaps vent it out on the parties responsible or address it. They take it out on others; these others become the victims of cyber-bullying.

In my years of studying as a Psychology major, I came across numerous victims of cyber-bullying. Some of them were kids in high school or junior, some of them were my peers at university. They all had one thing in common to say; cyber-bullying is just as bad as or worse than normal bullying. It hurts, it traumatises and it sometimes kills.

In psychiatry, we prescribe drugs that will eradicate symptoms ignoring the root cause. In cyber-bullying, we prescribe standard, socially correct punishments and leave the root cause untouched with considerable apathy. Why not try a different approach? Why not take a peek into the mind of a cyber-bully. If we pull out the roots of the cause, the weed of bullying dies right?

See, it starts early on in life. The reasons for bullying start at home almost always. It could be a dysfunctional family, abnormal amounts of stress or the feeling of power that comes where they have no power in their home; in other words low self-esteem.

It could also be peer pressure, the need to “fit in”, the feeling of exhilaration that comes with being one of the cool kids in school.

Dominating behaviour even though harmful is now put on a pedestal. Becoming the next cyber-bully could also mean that their popularity increases, friends and followers in social media increases because they are the “stud” or the “IT girl”.

So, how can we rewrite this behaviour?

Cyber-bullying is so much easier to pull off because you have that shroud of the keyboard or your phone. You don’t actually need to walk up to that person and embarrass them. You do it online, it reaches a wider group of people and you’re done.

First, we all need to escape the tunnel-vision that bullies are monsters. They are not. They are just people like everyone else and more often than not, their bullying arises from internal conflict or trauma as opposed to them being just pure evil. The minute that we accept this, we begin to see bullies as victims…victims of personal demons; depression, self-deprecation, anger, pain and fear.

Then we address it appropriately. How do we discourage a bully from bullying? Treat the bully with respect. If you categorise them as a bully then you are giving them a chance to go in deeper to their harmful behaviour. Give them a clean slate, sure, get them some medical help if needed but more importantly talk to them and make them see the pain they are causing their victim.

Open them up to the unseen side of cyber-bullying. Chances are, these “cyber-bullies” do not know how far the consequences of their actions can reach. Let them read online reports of cyber-bully victims through the decades. Give them enough reasonable doubt to question their actions.

The real and online worlds blurred a long time ago. Cyber-bullying is very real and it happens 24/7. It could be something as simple as excluding a person from a whatsapp group. It could be a video of a kid making a funny mistake that goes viral. It could be an image of a person made into a meme.

And one last thing, when you see it, report it. Take action against it. Remaining silent in times of moral crisis in probably the worst thing you and I can do. If the cyber-bully is somebody you know, stand up to them and stop them. If the victim is somebody you know, encourage them to speak out and be strong, you might be saving a life and when you feel like you have too much on your plate and you don’t need to get involved just ask yourself

If not you, then who?

If not now, then when?

“Being bullied over the internet is worse. It’s torment and hurts. They say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ That quote is a lie and I don’t believe in it.” –  cyber-bullying victim, 14 yrs, New Jersey

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