Life, and the bulk of its interactions, are happening online now more than ever with work and school being done primarily at home due to safety concerns and restrictions of COVID-19. With increased connectivity and online interaction comes the risk of cyber-bullying, which can be scary and damaging to kids and adults alike.
Knowing what to look for and how to address it can help you feel empowered and more protected in this new environment.
1) Anonymous Attacks
If you’re in any type of public facing position or if you choose to put yourself out there on any social media platform, you are opening yourself up to the ill-intention of others. Trolls can be known people, fake profiles, or completely anonymous but their sole purpose is to attack, challenge, or insult other people online. Sometimes, they aren’t even real people behind the accounts, they are bots or automated accounts.
Even the most well-intentioned or innocent posts can become subject to attack by these people. It has very little to do with what you post or who you are and far more about the negative and hurtful intentions of the person on the other end of the keyboard.
2) People You Know
Cyberbullying by people that you know, work with or go to school with can be among the most hurtful and harmful. This type of cyberbullying can be direct insults and attacks or more subtle by means of passive aggressive comments or put downs. Because these bullies know you, it may included personal or private information about you. The motivations for this type of bullying can be vast and varied but usually stem from jealousy, a perceived slight or injury to them, or in the hope of gaining some sort of social clout or power.
How To Address & Combat Cyberbullying:
Cyberbullying content and comments can be sent to you directly, or can be about you but directed to or shared with others or a combination of both. As soon as you are made aware of it, there are a few things you should do to help combat the bullying and build a case against the bully if needed.
1) Document everything:
Take screen shots or photos of everything that you feel constitutes cyber-bullying. Collect profile/user information for those originating the comments if possible. If you are learning of harmful or threatening comments about you that are being sent to others or shared on other platforms that you don’t have access to, request that those individuals that are receiving the information screen shot and forward it to you for your documentation.
2) Report the bullying and inappropriate content to the app/platform administrators if posted on social media. If done on a work-related system or school-based platform, alert the proper authority overseeing that environment such as a supervisor or HR partner for work or a teacher or administrator for school-related incidents. If you feel physically unsafe or threatened, contact law enforcement for intervention and to protect your safety.
3) Block the perpetrator:
Whenever and wherever possible, block the offender from being able to post and comment on your pages, profile, and posts.
Normally I’m all about having reasonable and candid direct conversations with people that you want to have positive communication with but in the case of trolls and cyberbullies, it’s best and safest to flag, report, and block them entirely to the best of your ability. If their goal is to belittle and bully you or cause you harm, you’re never obligated to endure their abuse.