In the age of the internet, bullying isn’t just for the playground. Ever posted something on social media and endured what seems like endless negative comments? Or been the butt of every joke in a WhatsApp group? You’re a victim of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is something experienced by all age groups. The rise of social media has made it easy to show disrespect without consequences. You feel that nowhere is safe as you’re experiencing harassment and shaming in your own home.
You are not alone.
Social media and cyberbullying
Caroline Criado Perez endured death threats on Twitter while campaigning to have a woman appear on a banknote. Media stories about Meghan Markle report negatively on small details of her behaviour such as how she cradles her belly. Consider the unnecessary comments that Marcus Rashford and other footballers received following our second place in the Euro 2020.
Cyberbullying is no less hurtful than other more ‘traditional’ types. Bullying is intended to make you feel bad and erode your self-esteem whether it’s a friend making constant jokes about reasons for your single status or someone you’ve never met making death threats. The bully is engaging in this type of behaviour to make themselves feel better. Your hurt makes them feel temporarily powerful.
The internet has made it easier to get into the habit of bullying behaviours because it looks like entertainment. The media draws negative attention to particular behaviours or choices. These can be as innocent as a new dress, a change of hairstyle or the colour of kitchen cabinets. You are encouraged to support this bullying behaviour by liking, commenting and sharing. It’s easy to justify to yourself that you’re joining in a conversation and assuming that the victim won’t ever read it anyway.
We understand that pain and fear from all types of bullying is something that can stay with you. Your heart will race as your phone pings with a notification. You might feel that you should stay away from social media altogether as the only way to keep yourself safe. You doubt your value and your physical wellbeing can also suffer. You owe it yourself to take steps to restore your emotional health.
Steps to take if you’re experiencing cyberbullying
There’s no need to respond to your bully but there’s every reason to stop them. Keep copies of the messages and contact the platform, service or provider to report the harassment. If you are concerned for your safety then also the matter to the police.
Learn how to assert your values
Don’t stand for bullying behaviour in others. Set an example for the people around you. Report abusive content. Victims shouldn’t have to change their behaviour so it’s up to bullies to do so. If assertiveness is something you struggle with then coaching may be a route to consider.
Avoid getting caught up in toxic behaviour
If you’ve ever felt a sense of horrified glee after viewing something online then you could easily slip into bullying behaviours. Remind yourself that everyone, even celebrities have feelings. Engage in empathy.
Explore your feelings
Counselling, particularly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, can help you come to terms with how bullying made you feel. Even if incidents occurred years ago they can still have an impact on your current feelings and situation. Take time to explore your feelings of helplessness and anger.
Kindness counts. Rediscover your empathy and take care of yourself.