Faceless, Nameless, Merciless
Anonymity and online bullying.
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Who do you turn to when the bully could be anyone?"
You might think it’s easy to drop a bomb from an aeroplane because you don’t have to see the suffering you cause. You might think you could pretend that the destruction wasn’t real, that it was all part of a video game, that it wasn’t actually happening.
This generation of young people are interconnected in a way that no other generation has been before. We have contact with each other, we are informed, we have a world of diversity at our fingertips. However, in many ways, we are more isolated than ever before.
We all know the word, ‘bullying.’ We’ve heard it many times. So have our parents’ generation, and the generation before them. In the past, bullying was a thing that took place in the real world, and not in pixels. This is no longer the case. Bullying has branched out, and given us cyber bullying. Not only cyber bullying. Now, we have anonymous cyber bullying.
So what does it mean for someone to be ‘anonymous?’ To be anonymous, means one is not identified by name or has an unknown name. Anonymous internet users can come in many forms, from ‘trolls,’ stirring trouble in communal forums, to hateful bullies on personal sites.
The power to remain anonymous is a dangerous thing, but the danger of exposure to anonymous comments is even greater. When the opportunity is presented, it is easy to be tempted. People may expose themselves for a number of reasons, from their own insecurities, to simple curiosity.
Anonymity is not wholly a negative thing. It enables people to express themselves without fear, removes inhibition, and gives a voice to some who would usually be afraid to make themselves heard. However, this becomes part of the problem of anonymous cyber-bullying. Anonymity on the Internet sets us free.
However, we most commonly hear the word, ‘anonymous,’ these days in the negative context of bullying. When a bully has the power to harass someone anonymously, the consequences can be disastrous. They become able to remove themselves from the torment they are inflicting upon their victim. They cannot see beyond the veil of the computer screen and into the real world, in which they are causing the suffering of a real individual.
If one is being anonymously bullied, one may feel even more intimidated than one would if they knew the identity of their attacker. Uncertainty and confusion are horrible things. Who do you turn to when the bully could be anyone?
In looking at anonymity, it is important to look at the motives of the bully. In this situation and in hiding their identity, a bully shows himself or herself to be truly weak and cowardly. Not only are they being cruel and causing pain to another, they are doing it in an underhand way. Often times, a cyber bully may be suffering from bullying in everyday life, or have been a past sufferer. In a lot of cases, the anonymous bully is a pitiable case, pathetic in their desire to abuse others, remaining hidden from view.
If you are a victim of cyber bullying, it is important to remember that you are not alone. It is also crucial not to forget your own strength. Although a bully may feel protected behind the safety of their screen, you hold the power. ‘Delete Cyber Bullying,’ gives advice on how best to react to anonymous cyber bullying.
Firstly, ignore the bully if at all possible. By giving them a reaction, you’re giving them a rise, a kick out of provoking you. We need to refuse to submit to what bullies want, to intimidate and hurt their victims. Secondly, keep a record of any abuse you receive, by taking a screenshot or otherwise. If you can show an adult the messages themselves or a record of when you received them, it may be easier to verify what went on and who the bully was.
Reach out and talk to people, particularly a trusted adult such as a parent, a teacher, school administrators or counselors. It’s also very helpful to talk to friends if you’re feeling upset. Cut off the bully. This is within your power, by either blocking their phone number, or blocking them on social media sites. In the case of Ask.fm, the solution is straightforward, but surprisingly difficult in some cases. Delete the page, and rise above anonymous bullies’ stream of hate.
There are a few actions that you should definitely avoid taking in the case of anonymous bullying. Don’t allow yourself to sink to the bully’s level, and retaliate with your own abuse. Turn their bad vibes into good ones, and show them an example of how a brave and mature person behaves. As well as this, don’t forward bullying content or messages to friends, as this might even cause the problem to escalate.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t believe the bully. You are a unique person, and you are loved for your uniqueness and kindness. In fact, a bully may even choose to bully you because they are jealous of you for one reason or another. So don’t allow them to corrode your self-esteem. Cyber bullies’ cowardly and destructive actions are often more about their own problems than they are about you, and in their attempt to get you down; they are showing themselves to be on a level of cowardly bitterness. Instead of listening to the anonymous voices of weak haters, talk to someone you trust and like who will build you back up.
Don’t forget, you are stronger than the voice of anonymity.