Fat. Ugly. Kill yourself. You didn’t expect to get those comments when you posted that pic.
Now, your favorite photo has become a weapon. And it’s aimed right at you.
Social media has become the drug of choice for the masses. But what happens on those websites can be deadly. Over 36% of people report being targeted by cyberbullies.
It’s estimated that 70% of cyberbullying happens on social networking sites. How can you avoid becoming a target?
Can you block the bullies? And what can you do to fight back?
Cyberbullying is any kind of taunting, name-calling, threats, or targeted attacks. And malicious messages or treatment on any form of online or electronic platform, including TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email, and more.
Some people think that only school-aged kids and young adults are being tormented online, since they spend so much time on social media, in gaming environments, and on their phones. But cyberbullies also target adults. In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that
41 percent of U.S. adults have experienced harassment online. Cyberbullying can feel overwhelming and inescapable since we spend so much of our lives online.
Step 1: Keep Proof
Document everything so you have proof of what happened. You can save emails by printing them out, or by saving them as PDF files. And take screenshots of nasty comments on social media. You can even copy bullying text messages to email, or take screenshots of them.
Create a folder with all the evidence, and keep it in a safe place. You can give copies of the folder to authorities if the harassment makes you feel like you’re in physical danger.
Step 2: Unplug
Take a break. While you might need to use email and access social media for work, limit your personal social media activity. This will allow things to die down. It could mean taking a break for a few days, weeks, months, or maybe longer.
But it will give you time to disrupt the cycle of harassment, and give you a chance to regain your sense of peace, calm, and confidence. That’s what an Emmy-nominated TV anchor, Catherine Bosley, did.
While vacationing with her husband, and recovering from a life-threatening illness, Catherine decided to do something that was very out of character for her. She entered a wet t-shirt contest in Key West. The next year, video of that contest appeared on a website like those old Girls Gone Wild videos. It showed Bosley letting her guard down.
The footage quickly appeared on social media websites, and people in Youngstown, Ohio, where she lived, recognized Catherine. She was fired. Then the harassing emails and comments started, and people she didn’t know were telling her that she should die.
Catherine unplugged for a while, and she became an anti-bullying advocate. She also gave a TED Talk about how to survive bullies, recommending that victims not pay attention to the harassment unless it warrants legal action.
Step 3: Ignore Them
Do not engage with bullies. Responding to a message, text, email, or social media post is only likely to add fuel to the fire. If someone knows they are getting on your nerves and making you think about them, it gives the bully power. And it encourages them to continue their unacceptable behavior.
Step 4: Block Them
If someone harasses you, block them in whatever way they contact you. That could mean blocking them on your social media accounts and your email. They may figure it out and create new accounts, but you can block those too.
It’s like walking out of the room during a fight. The best way to win this fight is to walk away from it.
Step 5: Report Them
If a person makes physical threats, save the evidence, and call the local authorities. This will give you some protection and establish a record of the threat.
Step 6: Strength in Numbers
Perhaps you can find other people who are being bullied by the same individual. There’s strength in numbers, especially if your tactics and actions are the same. A social media platform might shrug off one person’s complaint of cyberbullying. But the platform is less likely to ignore complaints from three, five, or 50 people.
Step 7: It’s Not You
Remember that you do not deserve this. You did not provoke it. You did not ask for it. You did not bring this on. It could help you to speak to a therapist, counselor or other health care provider,
find ways to work through the trauma of being bullied, and start rebuilding your life and confidence.
- “How to Fight Adult Cyberbullying” techwalla.com.
- “Cyberbullying: Adults Are Worse Than Children”. James Adonis. 2021. smh.com.au.
- “11 Facts About Cyberbullying”. 2021. dosomething.org.
- “The History Of Cyberbullying”. 2017. Bark.
- “The Origin Of Cyberbullying + 5 Ways To Identify And Prevent It | Data Overhaulers”. 2021. Data Overhaulers.