I was filtering through the comment section of my blog the other day, weeding out the racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islam-phobic remarks. I stopped for a moment at one particularly abusive, profanity-laced comment shortly before deleting it.
I tried to picture the person on the other side of my screen typing these threats and profanities. Who are these people who hide behind a keyboard to kick virtual sand in our cyber-faces? Is there anything we might say that would reach them, or to provide support for their victims? Possibly not, but it still seems important to try. Bullies count on our silence to isolate their victims. If we all speak up when someone is being abused, bullying will be much harder. But what to say?
1. “Cyber-bullying doesn’t make anyone look tough.”
It takes zero courage to insult people online. Surely cyber bullies must imagine that we picture them as towering monsters and that we are cowering before their online persona, but that is not our image of them at all. When we run across cyber-bullies, most of us do not picture intelligence, wit or power; but sad little people. Let them know that you do not believe they are really so petty and small.
It is critical not to return insult for insult. We must model the behavior we hope to instill. Remember that you will quickly tire of such vulgarity, but they may thrive on it. By describing the sad nature of what they are doing it may become clear that you know they are threatening you with a rubber sword. Invite them to come out from behind that mask.
2. “Ridicule is not reason.”
If a person has a point to make they can do so without insults. Ridicule is the cloak of a weak argument. Often a cyber-bully has spent their life surrounded by people with the same small worldview. They expect that the same empty name calling will work elsewhere. They need to be reminded that they are out of their jurisdiction and must provide logical arguments. Tell them that you are willing to have a conversation, but you will not waste time with someone whose argument runs no deeper than name calling.
3. “I don’t owe you an explanation.”
The cyber-bully has come onto your page as a guest. Now they are rudely demanding that you justify you opinions to them. You answer their questions only to receive more. They never answer the questions you ask in return. You can say, “I do not owe you an explanation for anything. If you will be polite we can discuss this matter, if you continue your abuse, you will be blocked from this page.”
Those are thoughts off the top of my head. What other suggestions come to mind?