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?
I have been bullied for my beliefs-not cyber-up close and personal.I like answer number three.I said well that is an opinion-then walked away to the outdoors.I did not want to be seen as a part of the meaness,but I wanted not to get engaged.Who knows how I should have reacted?.It happened more than once.
My beliefs that caused this on more than one occasion: The person thought- Women have no voice in the church-,there is no global warming-and some others. I seriously did not bring these subjects up myself.
Long before the internet, I recall a time in my 5th grade music class in Dallas, Texas in 1963. The principal came over the loudspeaker at the front of the room, above the clock and the old green board with chalk lines marking the musical staff on the board. They announced that the President of the United States had been shot in our town.
About half of the kids actually clapped and made comments like, “GOOD!” Some wept (including the teacher), and others sat mute with looks of concern.
Those children who enjoyed the tragedy had no particular understanding of what was unfolding before them (and in the days to come), they just parroted what they had heard at home, or in the homes of playmates. It is like that on the internet, facebook, etc. Many parrot things they’ve heard or seen. Share memes (I do). Often I face such attacks from so-called cyber bullies. I am never fearful, because unlike those children, I have been lucky in education and exposure to a broad band of life and ideas. Most are easily deflected, or taken care of with humor. Those that aren’t can be disappeared with the touch of a button (not unlike drone hits).
I suppose the person(s) I am often communicating with in one of those exchanges is not the bully, but those others orbiting around them…like those that sat mute in their 5th grade chair when the President of the United States was gunned down.
Consider who the real audience is for your comments.
Thank you David. That’s quite a story. I had the same experience in Dallas with the cheering for JFK and for MLK. What grade school did you go to? Were you at Carpenter?