My Bullying Story…and How I Beat Bullying
My first online experience was on MySpace, on the tail end of its dominance of the interwebs. Here, you would ‘connect’ with your favorite music artists and a few other cool folks from around the world. That went great because we all connected on a common bond – music. My first friend on Myspace was the ever-smiling Tom… Tom was there for all of us!
Fast forward to a few years later, and Facebook was the ‘it’ social platform to join. At the same time, my campus had an intranet forum where we would have chats amongst ourselves about boys, girls, food, parties, and everything in between.
The First Time
My first online bullying experience was on both platforms at the same time. On Facebook, I met a lot of people I went to high school with. Maybe I should take it back a few steps. My high school experience was, for lack of a better word, crap! I met some of the nastiest girls at a boarding school, a 2-hour drive from my hometown. I left high school having put an imaginary hex on anyone who was a part of it. Yes, THAT is the group of girls who I ‘reconnected’ with on Facebook. A few apologized, but others felt it was the perfect continuation of the in-person bullying experience. From body shaming to rehashing the dark past we shared, you name it!
Over on the other side of the campus forum, there was a thread where people posted anonymous opinions on just about everything. To understand the online bullying experience on this platform, I need to point out that I was a Media Major. He was always part of every project, class, or event that would get me that Magna Cum Laude on my final certificates. One anonymous poster went ahead to call me out on my activities, how I felt like I was unique and better than everyone else when I’m not. That one post was not the problem; it was the replies supporting it. Some did have fabricated information on it, but such is the disadvantage of anonymous posts. I drafted a long response to defend myself, but my best friend at the time advised me to let them talk and ignore them.
How It’s Going
I am what some would call a ‘conspiracy theorist’ and not afraid to air my otherwise unpopular opinions. This continued not only online but also in person during debates. In a world of dissenting opinions, and I can attest to how hard this is, we should respect each other’s views. I can assure you that we are not all of the same school of thought. I have not slowed down, and I feel that airing my views on any issue gives me peace of mind and, quite frankly, keeps me from the brink of sadness and depression from not being accepted as a ‘normal part of society. If I am honest, my need to aggressively defend my stand on an issue can also be considered online bullying.
Based on my little story, it is clear what online bullying is. It is bullies who make use of social media platforms to verbally insult others. Online bullying also extends to text messages, emails, and interactive websites. A type of online bullying is also ‘revenge porn’, which is when people leak images or videos of an intimate nature online as a way to hurt someone.
Beat The Bully
The title is misleading, but you can indeed beat the bully – not physically but through other means. Only you can control how you react to a bully; how they handle it is out of your control. So what can we all do to ensure we ‘beat the bully?’
- Address the bully: Sounds intimidating, right? This is the one time the phrase ‘take the high road’ comes into play. It can be hard trying to be the bigger person to address a bully. You should consider talking to the bully because they may not know that their words or actions offend you. Try not to address your bully in public at first because this could backfire on you. Instead, drop them a DM or private message and explain to them the exact words and actions that hurt your feelings. They will either acknowledge the situation and retract their statement or brush it off and probably turn the bullying up a notch. Remember, you can only control how you address the bully and not how they react to it.
- Publicly shame them: When the high road is closed, you can publicly address the bully and let them know that they have offended you. Dominant personalities on social media platforms usually go for a long time unchecked. Chances are that there are others like you who do not appreciate the bully’s comments or actions. Resist the urge to be petty during this public address and only touch on the issue at hand. Keep it short and to the point, and keep it moving.
- Share with someone close: We are all different and handle situations differently. Suppose you experience a situation you might consider bullying. In that case, you can share it with a family member or friend, and they can offer their opinion. You might have misconstrued what the person was trying to communicate, or you are not crazy, and they really are bullying you. Keeping quiet in such a case can lead to depression and even someone harming themselves. We do not want to lose anyone else to the dark vortex of bullying.
- Block them: Social media has the most beautiful feature globally – the block button. If you feel someone is really trying your patience and trying to hurt your feelings, simply block them. When you block someone, they cannot contact you, see your profile, messages, or comments. On platforms like Facebook, if you block someone, they cannot even find you when they do an online search. Protect your peace of mind; just block them.
- Report them: Most online platforms have community guidelines by which they uphold all their subscribers. This basically means that they can block or reprimand you for posts that offend any group of people. The approaches are also used to warn you before you are restricted from posting or kicked off the platform altogether. The guidelines are used especially when someone reports your post, comment, or reaction to any post on the platform. If someone is directly affecting you, there is the option to report them. Use this feature carefully if it might erroneously get someone’s account shut down.
- Just ignore them: When all is said and done, you can choose to take the high road and never look back. How do we do this? Simply ignore them. You do not have to respond to every Tom, Dick, and Harry online. A bully can address you by name and even send you private messages to drive the bullying into overdrive. Just ignore them and move on to more important things.
What We Should Do Ourselves
When we want to change the world, we should start with ourselves. As I mentioned, my passionate opinions on various issues can sometimes seem like bullying. So what can we do to ensure that we do not become part of the online bullying army?
- Assess what you post: You should ask yourself some questions before you click ‘send’ on that post or comment. Does it offend anyone? Is it necessary? Am I able to deal with the consequences? If you do not have concrete answers to these questions, set aside that post until you have something better to respond with.
- Avoid posting content that will attract bullying: What am I talking about? When we post online, we constantly expose a little bit about ourselves. Let’s avoid being ready fodder for the keyboard warriors. Avoid posting extremely personal issues about your life. You should also refrain from posting provocative content such as nudity. This can set you up for body shaming, insults, and ‘jealous’ comments.
- Careful how you represent yourself: If you are still unsure what you want to post, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Is what you are posting how you want to represent yourself? Will you be proud of these post years down the line? What impression of me will people have if I post this?
Dear Parents and Guardians…
Yes, it is time to address parents and guardians on the matter of online bullying. Because of the pandemic that hit the world in 2020, more kids and adults spent more time on their screens. According to research done by Pew Research Centre, kids as young as 11 were spending too much time online either on social media platforms, Youtube or Netflix.
A cyberbullying research by Security.org showed that 22 percent of kids studied between the ages of 10 and 18 were cyberbullied. Half of these cases were in 2020 alone! So how did the kids feel about it? Those studied felt either angry, hurt, and scared. Some thought that it affected their physical and mental health. Such situations are what lead to self-harm with tragic consequences. So what can parents and guardians do to help beat the bullies?
- Keep communication open: Let the kids talk to you about everything that is happening in their lives. This open line of communication will push them to also let you know of any online bullying they may be experiencing. Listen to them without judging is important, so they do not also feel bullied by those they have turned to for help.
- Learn how online platforms work: With the technology era we are in, it does not mean that the older folks cannot learn a thing or 2 about how online platforms like social media, Youtube and so on work. This will give you an idea of what your kids are up to online and set any restrictions you need to when the time comes.
- They Should Gain Access From a Common Computer: Set up the computer or laptop in an open space in the house so you can monitor their activity in plain sight. Do not allow them to use these machines in the privacy of their rooms.
- Help them keep off the bullies: Have regular talks with your kids on how to handle online bullies. Encourage them to not comment on their posts or respond to their attacks. If they show you such messages, help your kids to report the bullies to the relevant platforms.
- Find out what guidelines schools have: In this day and age, schools and campuses have had to adapt new policies to protect students online. As parents, follow up with the school during PTA meetings what the anti-bullying policies are in place. These policies and anti-bullying awareness guidelines should be part of the curriculum so the students can fully understand what to do in such cases.
- Encourage Kids to Save Bullying Messages: If your kids keep receiving such messages, help them to save messages and even screenshots of such interactions. These are the best pieces of evidence to share with the relevant authorities when filing a report.
- Involve Police: Some bullies post threatening posts and prove that they can cause bodily harm to your kids. In such a case, get the police involved so they can investigate further.
Physical and online bullying has short-term and long-term effects on you and others. Online bullies need to exercise some restraint before putting up any posts. Posts are known to hurt, maim and even kill. If you have nothing to say, just don’t say it. To those experiencing bullying, I feel you, and I see you. Do not suffer in silence and speak up.
If all else fails, simply do a social media detox and stay off the platform for some time. Take up outdoor activities, reading, and spending time with friends. You will realize that there is so much more to life than the few hurtful words that a bully has to say about you online.
Lover of life and the written word, with 10 years of media experience. The author’s handle is Leasean.