Bullying used to be done in person, but with the advent of digital devices, the Internet and social media, bullies have taken to other means to harass their victims, especially since the Internet affords them anonymity and power without having to say anything to someone’s face. According to McAfee research, as many as 47 percent of teenagers 14 to 18 years old have been victims of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying may be thought of as something that happens to young people and teenagers, but in reality, anyone at any age can be the target of social media bullying – and even adults can be bullies. What makes it worse about adult bullying is that it may not take place in the form of blatant bullying that young children may face, but rather be much more subtle so that many people may not even suspect that there is anything going on. In fact, some victims may not even know that they are being bullied. It can be difficult to draw the line on social media, where we do not have body language or tone of voice to judge what someone truly means by their words. However, social media is meant to be a place where one can spend their free time and relax. At no point should interaction on social media make anyone feel harassed or uncomfortable. If you feel that you are the target of social media bullying, there are a few things you can do to alleviate it.
Report and Block the Offending User
Fortunately, social media platforms have recognized the dangers that their users may face. Almost all social media platforms offer a quick way to report cyberbullying or inappropriate content posted on their platforms. On every post, there are options to “Report Abuse”, where users can state the reason why. It is also possible to report individual users to the social media platform for abusive posts or messages.
Social media platforms also have a block or blacklist feature, allowing users to block all interactions with any particular person. If a user is being targeted by somebody, they can block the person and avoid viewing any of that person’s posts or receiving messages from them.
Do Not Retaliate
When hurtful comments are posted, one can be emotionally affected and discouraged, which can cloud their judgement and spark retaliation, which usually just makes things worse. Instead of responding on impulse or trying to one-up the bully with more hurtful comments, take a deep breath and step back for a moment. Sometimes, the post may not be intentionally hurtful, and you could avoid saying things you might later regret.
In some cases, responding to call out the bully can help to deter them from subsequent attempts. However, this should only be done with caution and if you are sure that calling them out is the best way forward. This could be done if all other attempts to ignore the bully or report them have failed, and they seem bent on picking on you.
Take a Screenshot
Posts can be easily deleted from public view on social media, but taking a screenshot helps to preserve evidence of the bullying in case action needs to be taken. Some bullies may make posts and then delete them after the damage is done. Even if the post is anonymous, saving a record of it can help the social media platforms or authorities trace the culprit via IP address or other identification methods.
Change Your Privacy Settings
Some social media platforms allow their users to set permissions for their posts and profile pages. If a bully is frequently commenting on things you post, unfriending them and turning up your privacy settings can help to keep them out of your personal space. Sometimes, this can stop the attacks if the bully no longer has access to fuel for their fire. In other cases, this may not be enough if the bully makes public posts about you.
To be safe, be wary of befriending anyone on social media that you do not know in person, especially if the social media account contains your personal details such as full name, address, email, phone number or pictures of you. Some bullies pretend to be other people just to get access to their victim’s pages and posts. The Internet affords such anonymity that we can never be fully sure if people are really who they claim to be.
Recognize That it is Not Your Fault
If someone becomes the victim of bullying, they may think that they did something wrong to set off the bully. However, that could not be further from the truth. Most bullies, whether elementary school children or superiors at the workplace, are dealing with their own insecurities that cause them to feel inadequate. To feel empowered, they attempt to bully others they perceive to be weaker.
If anything, being a victim of bullying means that you are doing well enough to make bullies jealous of something you have that they lack. For instance, bullies may pick on others they believe to be doing better at work than themselves. They may envy the close relationships someone has with their own family. They may feel that someone is more talented and progressing better than they are.
Most bullies just want to get a rise out of riling people up. If a victim is visibly affected by their actions, the bully will simply continue making life difficult. Instead, make it look like the bully has no impact on you, even if it hurts internally. It can be easier said than done but try not to be a victim and laugh along with the bully the next time they try to ridicule you. Soon, the bully’s attempts will backfire and they will stop picking on a victim that takes it in stride. Most bullies also tend to be lazy, so they will probably not go to great lengths to pick on a difficult target and simply look for a weaker victim.
Do Not Be a Bystander
Bullying may not happen to everyone, but that does not mean we should idly stand by and let it happen to someone else. If we have reason to believe that someone we know is being bullied on social media, we can do our part to report the person and encourage the victim to do so if they have not already.
Additionally, being a friend in need can go a long way. Sending a simple message to the victim that you care and would like to help them report the bully can help the victim to feel validated. Being a witness can help ensure that the victim’s claims are paid attention to and supported.