So the topic of cyber bullying seems to be on a lot of people’s minds as of late and I’ve been reading a lot of different posts about people’s own ideas of the concept of ‘Cyber Bullying’, the causes, the result of such behaviour and what needs to be done to combat it. I must say it’d proven quite interesting!
What I did notice was that there is a common train of thought amongst a lot of people when it comes to this topic and that is that the main solution to cyber bullying is simply to log off the Internet and shut down the computer. It’s a plausible solution to a growing problem and would in theory work pretty well if the world was Black and White with clear set rules and regulations. But no. This is 2013 and we live in a Digital age and there is A LOT of grey when it comes to cyber bullying.
What we all need to realise is that the Internet is no longer a separate entity where when you log in you are separated from your day to day life outside of your WiFi connection. It has become very blurred and it has gotten to the point where what is said and done online has repercussions waiting for us once we shut the computer down. The story of the guy from Twitter hurling insults to Tom Daley during the 2012 Games via his Twitter account is a great example of this. Really think about it guys, you hear about these stories of Universities and Employers scoping out their potential staff members via their Twitter and Facebook activity and then when they are seen either insulting people or have photos of themselves in compromising situations then shit hits the fan. But people still want to carry on with this pre digital era mentality where what is said or done online stays there and no one will ever know? Okay then.
What seems to be forgotten is how much importance is put on the Internet in 2013, especially with the younger generation. This generation of kids know nothing but the Internet and for that reason its becomes immersed in their day to day life. They make friends using the Internet, they find out information for school work from the Internet and people casually talk amongst their friends about the latest gossip seen on Facebook. You only have to walk into town to hear conversations between kids like this;
‘And basically yeah she liked his status and then commented on his photo yeah and then he changed his relationship status to single so I phoned him and was like ‘What dya mean by what you did on Facebook?’
Its no surprise that the biggest audience for users of social media are teenagers. They use it for its intended purpose; to socialise. Adults and Businesses use social media as a means of keeping up to date with others or promoting their brand and not to get to know new people or upload photos from last night’s crazy party and as such with teenagers the Internet is an extension of their own lives or in some cases is their own means of having a social life in the first place. I’ve seen it before where people who are socially awkward and lack any physical friends turn to the Internet as their way of making friends with others and live in a little bubble. And more times than often there is very little going for the person beyond the Internet and they have no distractions or hobbies that they can occupy themselves with. Its all done online. So when a person like this is insulted online its as if their whole world is crashing down and they feel threatened. And it doesn’t help when it is made public for everyone to see so that you then have hoards of people you don’t even know witnessing the abuse you are receiving and laughing at you and joining in. Thats the thing about cyber bullying as opposed to bullying in the physical sense. Instead of having to defend yourself to one person you have to defend yourself to over 100 people who you don’t know, can’t see and have no reason to dislike you other than because its somewhat funny.
A good example of how anonymity is the incentive to abuse online was when the infamous ‘Asian Burn Book’ made its appearance on Twitter. One of the main people mentioned in the book (the book itself was a cheap imitation of the ‘Burn Book’ from the movie ‘Mean Girls’ where users on Twitter wrote mean things about each other) was so offended by what was said he went and traced IP Addresses of those who said mean things about him and vehemently argued his case. Bearing in mind he did not know any of these people or knew where they lived. What I would have done in this situation was ignore what was said and get on with my life BUT like I said earlier, some teenagers have a lack of ‘real life’ hobbies and interests that branch out of the realms of the Internet and the Internet was practically his life and so because of that he felt compelled to defend himself and get to the bottom of it.
So lets mix these three concepts together. We have a teenager who lives their life through the Internet in a world where what is said on the Internet about them doesn’t stay there and has very little in the way of hobbies, friends or interests which can help distract them from the abuse. This boys and girls is about 99% of all teenagers in the UK and this is what people are failing to grasp when it comes to cyber bullying!! It’s all well and good telling someone to just log off and ignore it but look at the person who is on the receiving end of it and you’ll realise that logging off does very little in the way of solving the problem. And to say that its the victim’s fault for getting cyber bullied in the first place is just as naive and dumb as saying that the girl wearing a short skirt asked to be raped by the strange man simply because of the way she was dressed. Perhaps yes we all need to be a little less sensitive when we’re using the Internet because not everyone is nice but with the same token you could ask why do people go out of their way on the Internet to upset/insult people?
I’ve been the recipient of online abuse from people who bear no importance to my life. I was called things such as a ‘Peado’ and ‘Groomer’ by groups of people who clearly depend on the Internet for their social lives and chose to gang up against me and hurl abuse my way. I could have easily abused them back but I didn’t want to risk losing a single skin follicle over a group of non factors who evidently hold the Internet in a higher esteem than I do. Instead I read a book, I ate my dinner, I watched The Mindy Project and whilst I was still doing all this they were still banging on their keyboards wanting to get a reaction out of me. But I didn’t because the Internet is not my life and I don’t depend on it to be validated by others. Its worth mentioning that I am in my 20s and have lived in a world with no Internet growing up and can see just how important age is when it comes to cyber bullying and how you react to it.
Sadly not everyone holds the mentality I do and more and more we hear of children killing themselves because of the abuse they get online. Its a sad state of affairs when what is said online holds so much weight to want a child to not want to live anymore. Simply telling them to log off and ignore it just doesn’t cut it anymore. An understanding of just how important the Internet is to these kids needs to be established and nipped in the bud asap because putting so much dependency on a WiFi connection is not healthy. But it’s all the kids of the digital era know. Long gone are the days when I was a kid and spent my days not in front of a computer but rather watching Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon.