With the advent of social media, the world has changed its perception of communication. What once used to be a methodical manner of interaction, with due respect, proper salutation, ethics of writing, who you are addressing, the relationship between the writer and addressee, whether formal, social or plain official etc., has now made way for a changed mood, new age style, careless dropping of words, regardless of repercussions. The old era has long past gone. Conventional communication giving way to free speech, freedom of expression seeking refuge in anonymity. The so called social reform and progression has encouraged innumerable cyber bullies and cyber harassment among other negative attitudes.
Children subjected to bullying often end up with severe depression or turn into introverts, for fear of facing the bullies if they socialize. Adults many times are subjected to stalking and harassment depending on how successful or popular they happen to be.
Understanding the psyche of the bully isn't difficult. Often these people fall into the category of 'losers' They could either be school/college dropouts or adults who have failed in their personal or professional and social lives. Wherever you choose to categorise them, one thing definite is the availability of time at their disposal. Their single minded obsession of finding targets to torment and then go after them shows that they have little else to do in life. Anybody spending more than an hour on social media any time of day/night obviously has a lot of free time. When the mind gets idle the devil begins to play.
Venting frustration under the refuge of anonymity is easy. The bully thinks he isn't answerable to anyone, revels in either a fake or concocted identity, impersonating as someone else. The victim ironically, happens to be the reverse, someone who has little time for such extravagance, using the social media either to catch up with friends or a stress buster, is most often, not aware of hidden enemies and lurking dangers. That he is being stalked, his every move and behavior noticed and most often imitated, comes to light only after the damage is done. By which time, it could be too late.
Beware of people who are extra nice. Fake niceness is like an epidemic. You almost feel like screaming "your artifice shows, stop being nice, get real" Being extra gushy, mushy, eager to please are all part of trying to create an artificial larger than life image about oneself, all with a hidden agenda to appear smart and sought after, the grandiose amassing a momentum to gather supporters for sympathy.
Having identified the problem, how does one deal with harassment? On social networking sites one could resort to blocking the person, place them under restricted category. But that isn't enough, because of various visibility options available on the Internet and search engines, nothing is completely private. Is the answer then quitting, in order to rid oneself of the menace once and for all, out of our lives, out of the system? I, for one wouldn't advocate quitting. Out of personal experience, I say this : DONT QUIT. By doing so, you are giving your enemy a sense of victory and motivating him to repeat the crime with someone else. Believe me, this is exactly what they do. They don't have one single victim and do not rest once their single point of mission is accomplished. They will soon forget the first victim and identify or latch on to a new one who they think needs to again go away from their vicinity, once they realise a person makes them insecure. They will provoke and abuse, using the same language and methodology to harass you. They foolishly assume that by eradicating one victim after another on their social scene, they can emerge as victors, feeling a sense of power once somebody buckles under pressure. You have as much a right to be a part of your own social network as someone else. Deal with these abusers differently. Now that you have more or less identified their action plans and mode of attack, you know how to handle them. Your defiance is something they don't expect. Once they sense this, be prepared for a role reversal. The Wolf himself playing the lamb and crying 'Wolf'. They start playing the victim card to perfection. Trying to project 'you' as the offender and place themselves as the victim. More so, if you have reacted in a moment of haste or anger or retorted to one of their antics, they seize the opportunity. Since they already know how a victim behaves under pressure, they place themselves in that role and try to accumulate as much sympathy and support as they can, by trying to paint a black picture about you. This is another tactic to make you feel small, bad and even guilty, in order to eradicate you from their arena. After playing the sympathy card to perfection, they wait for your reaction and those of their sympathizers. Once that is garnered, at times you will have a whole army trolling you. Again, DONT QUIT. They will resort to ugly, filthy language and indulge in personal attacks. Never mind, you know that isn't the real 'you' and it is the result of a psychotic mind playing havoc. You must understand that these perpetrators are not normal, most need psychological help and they are giving vent to their frustration. Hence their words MUST NOT get you down. If the pressure becomes too much to handle, seek help. Report with all the proof at your disposal to the authorities, police, website administrators, whoever it may be. The offender needs to realise that he isn't going to have it easy all the time, that he cannot repeat the offense with every victim. This can be done if you are sure of the offender's identity. Most hide under masks, at the most you may find a name, which may or may not be genuine. The point is, every offence can be tracked so don't be afraid to report if you have the proof.
What then, is a permanent solution to this menace? Nothing, as of now. You need to be alert, keep yourself abreast of any situation, reduce interaction with strangers and never waste an opportunity to report an offender, more so if it is one playing under anonymity . For the next generation though, like all other lessons in life, they need to learn young. Cyber etiquette should be made mandatory as a part of grooming, growing up. A sense of responsibility needs to be instilled along with the seriousness of accountability to be established. You must own responsibility for what you write. Cyber space is no different from the real world. YOU are the same person, how you behave online reflects the kind of personality you are and your character offline.
Finally, what is this piece doing on a Relationship Blog? Trying to establish a link between the silent enemy and the victim. I do hope this instills some faith and confidence in those of you who have been traumatized by bullies, you are not alone and don't allow yourself to feel guilty for somebody else's actions. Enjoy your time on social networking sites by being prudent, alert, smart and wary of any dangers lurking over your shoulders. Be smart, be happy! And always remember, Winners never quit!