Exploring Cyberbullying - Humantold

Exploring Cyberbullying

Talia Akerman, LMHC April 25, 2024

Cyberbullying can trigger feelings of isolation, shame, and anxiety, as well as a lack of safety in its victims.

Can you remember a time when you were talking about politics and the conversation got a little too heated? The answer is likely yes. Political discussions and arguments often get incredibly heated and passionate. As feminist theory likes to say, “the personal is political”. During election years, cyberbullying tends to spike significantly. This means we are all in for a wild ride this year, no matter what political opinion we hold. We are all vulnerable to what is on the internet. That being said, cyberbullying is not something that affects children alone. Adults often fall victim to it as well. Cyberbullying is known to trigger feelings of isolation and a lack of safety in its victims (Cyberbullying, Human rights, and bystanders, n.d.). It also triggers feelings of shame and anxiety, which can lead to a loss of self-esteem (Cyberbullying, Human rights, and bystanders, n.d.).      

How exactly did the internet climate get so hostile? It’s hard to say exactly (cue all of our science teachers telling us that correlation is not causation!) That being said, in the 2016 election season there was a rise in cyberbullying during political discussions. This could be related to the fact that the primary election candidates themselves resorted to name-calling and bullying tactics (Cyberbullying, Human rights, and bystanders, n.d.). Whether they realize it or not, the candidates are setting the tone and example for how the rest of the country handles political discussions with the people around them. People then felt liberated by the example that was set and the anonymity that social media can provide. 

It would be so easy for someone to say “Just don’t use social media!” as a way of avoiding cyberbullies during election years. However, that feels parallel to preaching abstinence as the only means of pregnancy prevention. While it is a good option for some, it simply isn’t the most realistic or sustainable option for a lot of people. Some tactical things you can do to protect yourself: 

  1. Use the block feature: this is an excellent option to stop certain people from being able to reach you again and cause further harm. Sites like Instagram also let you block any future accounts that a user makes. 
  2. Hide/ “mute” people: this is often an easier step for many people who are fearful of blocking or unfriending people in their social circles 
  3. Use the filter words feature on platforms like TikTok: This will prevent you from seeing certain comments that may contain trigger words for you. 
  4. Limit comments/ messages to come from people you know: This will simply reduce your interaction with strangers who could cyberbully you. However, this will still leave you at risk of people you know cyberbullying you. 
  5. Limit your time on the apps: Consider restricting your usage to something as little as 10 min/ day. This allows you to stay informed, but not have as much exposure to the negative things. 
  6. Don’t engage with hostile videos/ comments: It is unlikely that you will get a cyberbully to “see their ways” or even consider apologizing. 

All that being said, cyberbullies tend to be awfully creative with their insults. Their aim is the hurt people and often times they succeed in doing so. Try your best to not feel ashamed if some of the comments do get to you. It is normal to feel hurt, anxious, sad, upset, insecure and so many other things after reading something like that. If someone said this to your face, it would likely hurt too. Just because it is a stranger on the internet does not mean you’re immune to the effects of harsh words. If it gets to you consider doing any of the following to cope:

  1. Sharing with friends, family, and/ or loved ones
  2. Journaling
  3. Step away from the screen and get some movement in, it will help process the way the emotion sits in your body! 
  4. Doing the activities that make you feel like “you”
  5. Therapy: If you find it’s sitting with you more than you’d like, tell a therapist about it! They’ll help you work through the hurt and understand why it hurt. 

References

Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Cyberbullying, Human rights, and bystanders. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/commission-general/cyberbullying-human-rights-and-bystanders-0#fn13

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