While social media is making people’s lives more convenient by improving communication and making it much easier and reducing social isolation, it also gave birth to some serious issues, one of which is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is an act wherein a person habitually uses digital media as a medium to shame someone by sharing screenshots of that person’s private conversations without their consent, posting embarrassing photos or videos on social networking sites, sending hate speeches through texts or direct message, and spreading humiliating rumors online. Various technological innovations such as smartphone optimizations and improvements on wireless internet connections are continuously being abused by bullies to harm others which is why it is important to know how to deal with cyberbullying, especially in this age wherein students are often exposed to social media.
How to know when a person is experiencing cyberbullying
According to a research study by Veronika Konok, a psychologist from Hungary, people have been more attached to their cellphones for the past years. This attachment can be attributed to psychology’s Attachment Theory. Attachment Theory suggests that cellular phones serve as transitional objects. Transitional objects act as substitutes for people you were attached with during your childhood, these objects help you transition from dependence to independence. Konok suggests that cellular phones have the same functions like your favorite teddy bear from your childhood. Due to this, people are now more susceptible to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a serious problem, some serious cyberbullying cases even lead victims to attempt or commit suicide. How would you know if someone is being cyberbullied? It is always better to take preventive measures before anything drastic happens so it is imperative that we are aware if someone is potentially being cyberbullied. Here are the signs:
- Being nervous when getting message notifications. A person who is being cyberbullied may seem jumpy and uneasy when receiving notifications. If a person who enjoys using his phone suddenly averts cellular phones and other gadgets, then it can be a sign that he is being cyberbullied.
- Losing interest in social gatherings. If an outgoing person suddenly loses interest in social gatherings, or if a person becomes anxious during social gatherings, he might be experiencing cyberbullying. It is important however to check if the person experiencing this is also manifesting other signs of being cyberbullied since some people naturally go through a phase where they lose interest in social gatherings.
- Voluntary isolation. If you find a person suddenly isolating himself from everyone, you might want to check if he is alright since sudden voluntary isolation can be a sign of a serious problem such as depression. It won’t hurt to check on that person from time to time, although you might want to make sure that you are not being too aggressive. Do not force a person to open up to you if he doesn’t feel like doing so, just let him know that you are there for him.
- Having unusual mood swings. Heightened mood swings such as anger issues or elevated fear or anxiety can be attributed to depression. A person who is being cyberbullied has a tendency to have mood swings. If you feel like the person is having unusual mood swings, try to initiate a conversation with that person.
- Withdraws from previous hobbies. If a person is so passionate about his hobbies and he suddenly avoids doing those things, chances are he is suffering from cyberbullying or depression. Do not ask him directly if he is being cyberbullied or if he is depressed as it may trigger negative emotions, ask him how he is instead and try to encourage him to continue his hobbies.
Forms of Cyberbullying
What are the forms of cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is not as simple as receiving hate messages or being shamed online. For some forms of cyberbullying, the process starts even before the shaming takes place. We must familiarize ourselves with the different forms of cyberbullying so that we can effectively handle and fight it we or our loved ones experience it. Here are the different forms of cyberbullying:
- Cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is the use of internet and electronic gadgets to stalk and harass a person. Cyberstalking can escalate to threats, false accusations, and physical harm and can be stopped through filing a restraining order and criminal charges to the perpetrator.
- Exclusion. Exclusion is the use of internet to ostracize a person from a social community. The current “cancel culture” can be attributed to this form of cyberbullying. The bully tries to influence a lot of people to exclude the victim through group messages and social media posts.
- Harassment. Harassment comes in many forms, but in cyberbullying the bully intentionally harms the victim by consistently sending hate messages and threats to the victim.
- Dissing. In dissing, the cyberbully spreads nasty rumors and horrible information about the victim with the purpose to ruin the victim’s reputation and his relationship with a certain person or other people. In this case, the perpetrator usually has a close relationship with the victim.
- Doxing or Outing. Doxing refers to the spread of sensitive personal information without the victim’s consent. The bully intends to harm the victim by posting sensitive personal information such as private photos, documents and conversations without the victim’s consent.
- Flaming. In this case, the bully consistently posts or sends profanity and insults to the victim to incite a fight between them.
- Trickery. Trickery is almost the same as doxing, except that it starts offline. In this case, the bully intentionally forms a bond or a close relationship with the victim to phish for sensitive information about the victim. When the bully gains the victim’s trust, the bully will then abuse the trust and spread the sensitive information secretly.
- Masquerading. Masquerading is a form of cyberbullying where a bully sets up a fake identity online with the sole purpose to bully someone. Bullies who do this usually have a close relationship with the victim.
- Trolling. Trolling refers to the creation of fake online accounts to intentionally upset a victim by leaving nonsensical inflammatory comments on the victim’s social media accounts. Trolls’s personal relationship with the victim is usually little to none. Although trolling is not exactly bullying, it can however lead to cyberbullying.
- Fraping. Fraping happens when the bully imitates the victim and ruin his reputation by using his name and photo to set up a poser account and post hate messages such as racial and homophobic slurs. Fraping is extremely dangerous since it can escalate quickly and can even lead to the victim facing criminal charges for online crimes that he did not do.
What to do when you are being cyberbullied
How will you help someone who is being cyberbullied? What if you are the one being cyberbullied? What should you do? Here are some of the preventive measures and damage control you can do against cyberbullying:
- Stay calm. Do not panic. In most cases, cyberbullies tend to get more aggressive when they see their prey panicking. Do not blame yourself. Remember, cyberbullying is wrong for whatever reason it may be. Keep in mind that there are measures you can take to end cyberbullying.
- Filter the words that would appear on your newsfeed. You can change your preferred posts in your settings. You can ban malicious words you don’t wish to see. If your bully is posting hateful remarks about you, you can filter the words so that their posts won’t appear in your newsfeed.
- Respond selectively. When you are being shamed at a post on social media, do not respond right away, doing so might just escalate things. With the rise of meme culture, bullies might twist your words or turn them into memes. Carefully select posts that are necessary to respond to especially if it involves your integrity and your loved ones, otherwise just ignore the post.
- Change your privacy settings. One of the problems in using social networking sites is that people can find your personal information easily. Bullies might use your personal information against you, so to prevent them or stop them from doing so, see to it that your privacy settings are customized.
- Take a screenshot of the posts and messages from your bullies. Cyberbullying is a crime and the most effective way to fight your bullies is to keep screenshots of their posts and messages as evidence for any legal action you wish to take.
- Try to talk to your bullies. You can try to ask them to take down their posts. You are not required to talk to your bullies if you are uncomfortable, your parents can do it for you. If you feel like the situation can be resolved without the intervention of authorities, let your parents handle it for you.
- Block the bullies and report their posts. If your bullies refuse to take their posts down, you can report it so that the social networking site can review it, take it down, and impose rightful punishment against the one who posted it. You can also cut your connection with the bully by blocking them.
- Report the bully to the proper authorities. If the bully is still persistent in bullying you even after all the preventive measures you did, you can report him to the proper authorities. You can report the bullies in your school’s guidance and disciplinary head or you can report it to the police if you feel like your bullies are putting you in danger.
The number of cyberbullying cases has been rising for the past years and some cases are too serious that it leads to suicide among college students. One case, in particular, is the cyberbullying case in Texas that led an 18-year-old teenager to commit suicide. Cyberbullying can actually destroy someone’s life, so it is imperative that we are aware of the signs of cyberbullying and how to deal with it.
If you are going through an emotional or suicidal crisis, click here.
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