Since being reunited with my best mates from school on Facebook, I have swapped memories, shared stories, pictures, laughs of when we were all carefree teenagers on the brink of discovering the bright new world. I often look at Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and the rest and thank them for being here; being in my life and keep me connected with the people I love the most. Yet have been darker occasions since I joined Facebook to explore its wonders of time and space since 2007. I have been a victim of cyber bullying.
What can I say about these two mind altering experiences in my life? Since the last occasion which has sadly been very recently, I have tried to put this awakening into words. Being a writer and published author, you would think that I wouldn’t have a problem describing to you this dark matter closing in on me, choking the air around me, keeping me awake at night, frightening me beyond any scary monster dreams I had as a child. But I can’t find any that can accurately report on this menace that grips you every second of the day.
The web has given us all freedom to speak, connect and discuss every matter in every corner of the world in seconds. I can talk to a best friend on the West Coast of the States like she was sitting right next to me. The world has become minute, countries, languages and culture only separated by a split second. Yesterday was the atrocious attacks in Belgium at… my newly found cyber bully paid no attention to the horror and lost life of ordinary people going about their lives only having them twisted permanently and scarred by loss. The relentless barrage of messages on Facebook just kept running like nothing had happened. Thanks to Facebook’s 48 hour policy of re-blocking unwanted contact, I was subjected to two days of attacks in my own home coming through each device; pc, iPod, phone sinking into each corner of my world making everything in it black and tarnished.
So how has the internet uncovered the beasts within normal people? I am a fan of Nick Abbott on LBC late on a Friday and Saturday night each week. He often says that if you really want to know what people are like, don’t pay attention to what they say in front of you, read what they write on the internet, then you will know what they’re really like. My cyber bully is an amateur entertainer of sorts. Someone who makes people smile, laugh and feel good about themselves and life. But there is, as I have found out, a flipside to this jollity. Put a thick blanket of privacy over the veil of what is the stage of the World Wide Web and you uncover something very sinister. Is this someone I know? Actually no, in fact, I have never met him (cyber bully number two was someone I didn’t know either) but I was a target. A pretty face on a profile picture perhaps? Men don’t have to simply disempower women in a dark alley only these days, the internet allows them to degrade us, bully us and hunt us from the comfort of their own home.
Shockingly enough, in this day and age, it is not just our children who are being targeted by cyberbullies, despite the horrifying statistics that show more than 1 on 3 teenagers have been victims of cyber bullying. It is just as much an epidemic in the adult arena as it is in the playground. Adult cyber bullying is on the increase, and recent studies have shown that these are specific behavioural disorders in adults especially where repeated harassment has taken place despite the victim asking the bully to stop, inform Facebook and even contact the police, adult cyber bullies tend to see these requests to stop as an open door for more taunting and humiliating behaviour. If you’re bully refuses to let go even after you have told them to stop, here is what you need to do;
We need to tackle this head on and the first thing we need to do is talk about it, even if you think what’s happen to you is silly or nothing. It is these little incidences that lead to more severe events so even if you think you’re being over dramatic about it, you still need to tell someone.
OK, let’s be clear as to what cyber bullying is:
Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
Spreading rumours online or through texts
Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
Taking unflattering pictures of a person and viciously spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person
How to report it:
Sometimes, we are confronted by unwanted messages which can turn vicious, relentless and nasty when we don’t rise to whatever it is the bully wants, once they have locked onto you, it can be very difficult to get away. Victims tend to suffer irregular sleep, anxiety attacks, stress, and depression, withdrawing from social activities even physical discomfort, lack of appetite, chest pains, and shortness of breath. They are all effects of the anxiety that bullying and cyber bullying causes. The bullies themselves are often not aware of this, and if they are, it is usually because they have been bullied themselves in the past.
If it does happen to you;
Keep everything. It can be tempting to delete messages and hide them away. When you report it, the service providers, webhosts, website will need to see evidence so make sure you keep a record of everything that has been sent to you, including times, dates, content. Write everything down like a log of events, contact, and descriptions and so on. The more evidence you have, the better.
If you do find yourself confronted by something that appears sinister or unwanted on Facebook, here are the guidelines that the site reports forward thinking support website Bullying.co.UK;
Facebook does not tolerate bullying and say they will remove bullying content when they become aware of it and may disable the account of anyone who bullies or attacks another. They have a set of community standards that they adhere to and it states that they will not tolerate:
• Pages that identify and shame private individuals,
• Images altered to degrade private individuals,
• Photos or videos of physical bullying posted to shame the victim,
• Sharing personal information to blackmail or harass people and
• Repeatedly targeting other people with unwanted friend requests or messages.
You can report bullying on Facebook using the report links which appear near the content itself, normally on a drop down arrow which gives you menu option to report the image, post or comment.
However, when being faced with attempting to report the bullying on their site, their links simply go to a list of yet more links that send you back to just blocking the bully. This is fine but what if you can’t block them? If it is someone you blocked already and then, regrettably unblocked them, Facebook has a 48 hour policy of you cannot re-block someone until the 48 hours have passed, meaning you are at their mercy for two days.
You can contact the police, your local authority or the National Bullying Helpline, the number for which is at the bottom of this page. Bullying is taken very seriously by the police and local authorities and in some cases, the bully has their social media pages shut down, court orders taken out against them and in more severe cases, they can be prosecuted. Remember, cyber bullying and bullying is very serious and needs to be reported. There are many more cases of all over the world of bullying. For a handful that speak up about it, there will be dozens more who are suffering in silence. Report it and help the bully’s next victim find support and a voice to speak up.
Sadly, around 91% of victims who have reported cyber bullying say no action was ever taken against the bully. When nothing is done about, it can take a long time for self-esteem to be rebuilt, for confidence to be regained. Victims are often left with long term effects of anxiety, stress and depression. Long after the bully has gone, victims are still dealing with the psychological effects of the bullying. This is why it needs to be taken seriously and dealt with. There are a number of excellent support lines for adults just like Child Line for children. One of the best ones with lots of support, information and a helpline is Bullying Co UK, their link is below here at the end of the article.
National Bullying Helpline: Tel: 0845 22 55 787
Stop Means Stop Campaign