While many people have heard of children being cyberbullied online, many are not aware that there is a serious problem online with adults cyberbullying other adults. There are ugly trolls stalking the internet looking for victims all the time.
For instance, I recall when I first became involved with the protective mothers movement, the leader of my organization contacted me with a list of people I was not supposed to associate with. Wouldn’t you know it, within weeks of her doing so, a group of these banned individuals hacked into my Facebook page and started to attack me. Every time I tried to block them, they would find another way to get back in.
I’m also a part of a mental health rights movement and have had internet trolls from those kinds of organizations attack me online as well.
When it comes to social justice work, fending off personal attacks from nasty scumbag, internet trolls seems to be part of the experience.
What has happened to me had a political basis, but the reality is that when it comes to cyberbullying there doesn’t have to be a specific reason for it to occur. For some people, cyberbullying is a malicious form of entertainment or means of blowing steam, and in our day, it’s become a serious public health problem. In fact, according to Sonja Hegman of the “Social Times” statistics indicate that 40% of adults have been victims of online cyberbullying and 75% of Americans have witnessed online bullying.
One of the problems with identifying cyberbullying is that there is a thin line between heated debate and direct attacks on individuals. Sometimes it takes years before you begin to understand the difference. I know it took me a long time because I didn’t want to believe it of people. Below are a few ways to identify that you have ventured into the area of cyberbullying:
- You get the feeling that you are being attacked, and the conversation leaves you with feelings of depression, shame, and defensiveness;
- You feel hooked, like you have to answer the bully’s barbed remarks to persuade them they are wrong, but when you answer them, you only receive an endless stream of more insults;
In addition, keep in mind that conversations with trolls have certain features in common:
- Mobbing, i.e., a cyberbully might begin alone, but he or she is very likely to recruit some flying monkeys along the way to help out; they like to do their evil deeds in groups;
- Provoking, i.e. making outrageous comments to draw you out;
- Acting dumb, so you drop your guard;
- Fishing, they attempt to elicit personal, private information from you to expose your vulnerabilities;
- Making demands, insisting that you do or say something, and refusing to accept “no” as an answer;
- Arguing points that seem self evident, and when you respond going in for the kill
Finally, nasty scumbag trolls will directly attack you as follows:
- By attributing ulterior motivations to your remarks that you do not have;
- By attempting to give you a psychiatric diagnosis;
- By sneering at you, or making sarcastic remarks, and/or making hostile observations about your racial, ethnic or religious background;
- By inventing lies about what you have said and done, and/or slandering your reputation and character
Overall, they send a toxic level of hate in your direction.
How can you identify that you are dealing with a cyberbully?
As it turns out, half of cyberbullying victims didn’t know the person who harassed them. This means you should keep an eye out for indications that the bully or bullies don’t want you to know who they are. Here are some warning signs:
- You and the bully have few mutual friends in common;
- The bully has very little information about them on their profiles or any account history or activity;
- The people involved have objects or animals as profile pictures, so you can’t ID them, or else they use pictures which are so much at a distance or so blurry you can’t tell who it is.
Who are these people?
Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal indicates that many people who inflict cyberbullying on others partake of what is called the “dark triad of psychological traits” which includes 1. Machiavellianism, i.e. the tendency to be highly manipulative for their own personal ends; 2. narcissism and 3. psychopathy.
So how do you deal with them?
Under these circumstances, with people as dangerous as this, the best response is no response. You simply withdraw from any interaction with them whatsoever. You essentially unfriend, unfollow, unlink, and react with silence to any provocation they throw in your direction.
When it comes unacceptable comments, report and flag them to the managers of the websites you are on.
When possible document as much of the interaction as possible, i.e. take screenshots of the conversations, or print them out. If it gets to the point where you become fearful or concerned about the damaging impact that the cyberbullying could have on you, contact the police and report what is taking place.
Of course, with many sophisticated bullies and hacker types, they can often hide or delete their comments. Still, you do what you can. The more knowledgeable you become about trolls and their behavior, the more you can conduct business online safely and productively.