Bullying has reached epidemic proportions. And it’s not just kids anymore. It’s not even just age-on-age bullying. Parents bully kids (not their own) now happens all the time. And yes, some people never grow up, and continue to be bullies even as adults. And it’s not uncommon.

From the above-mentioned story on adult-child bullying:

“People who believe that cruelty is an acceptable means to channel interpersonal conflict, often suffer from severe narcissism with an antisocial element,” she says.

[From Dying Girl Kathleen Edward Cyberbullied by 33-Year-Old Neighbor: Why? - Health Blog - CBS News]

The severe narcissism with anti-social elements … yes. That part. While that is certainly a description of some bullies in real life — not on-line — I would submit that, given the relative anonymity of the internet, the anti-social elements of cyber-bullies is probably much more pronounced. As is, possibly, the narcissism. They really think the are somebody on-line. In reality they are sitting at home, alone, behind a computer screen and an anonymous name.

Cyber-bullying is its own special case of bullying. According to the Bullying Statistics website:

Cyber bullying is when a child or teenager is harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, threatened or tormented using digital technology. This is not limited to the Internet; cyber bullying also encompasses bullying done through such things as text messages using cell phones. It is important to note that cyber bulling can only happen between minors. When an adult is harassing children or teenagers, it is known as cyber harassment or cyber stalking.

(Via Cyber Bullying – Bullying Statistics.)

With the exception of their (completely wrong, in my opinion) statement that cyber-bullying can “only happen between minors” it’s pretty accurate.  The description from Wikipedia is better:

Cyber-bullying has been defined as “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person”,[2] or as “when an electronic device is used to attack or defame the character of a real person. Often embarrassing or false information about the victim is posted in an online forum where the victim and those who know the victim can see it publicly.”[3]

Cyber-bullies may disclose victims’ personal data (e.g. real name, address, or workplace/schools) at websites or forums or may pose as the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them. Some cyber-bullies may also send threatening and harassing emails and instant messages to the victims, while other post rumors or gossip and instigate others to dislike and gang up on the target.

(Via Cyber-bullying – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

I have said for many years that bullies are cowards. Usually scared cowards that bully in order to appear fearless. That bully in order make themselves feel strong (because they feel so weak). Cyber-bullies are even more cowardly and gutless. They don’t even have the strength to do their bullying face-to-face. In the light of day. They hide in their basements, behind anonymous usernames and multiple accounts. It is cowardice in its purest form.

Why am I writing about bullying right now? Well, many reasons, actually. But one of the main ones that prompted me to do it now is the absolutely horrifying attacks on a fellow blogger, Erin (QueenOfSpain). The threats made against her and her family via twitter are scary — and criminal.

Death threat

Now that’s an overt threat.

Kids2

And then starts the social-media piling on. These threats are clearly over the line. They are what I would consider credible threats of personal harm against Erin. They are, I hope, being aggressively investigated by local and Federal authorities. The fact that they were made over twitter is problematic, in my opinion.

Twitter has, in my experience, an abysmal record of dealing with harassment and cyber-bullying. So abysmal, in fact, that they basically don’t deal with it. Their reaction is, in essence “it’s between two users. Not our problem. Case closed.” I think twitter is at least complicit in much cyber-bullying, if not culpable.

By their own rules, twitter would not deal with the above threats because,

Twitter provides a communication service. As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users. Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, provided that they do not violate the Twitter Terms of Service and Rules.

Twitter provides you the tools to respond to others, but if the conversation ends, it’s best to remove yourself from the discussion to prevent escalating the issue.

(Via Twitter Help Center.)

And the only ‘tool’ they provide is to block a user. All that really does is prevent the user from following you, and you from seeing whatever they may be saying about you. Hardly an effective tool. The digital equivalent of telling someone that is being bullied to simply close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears, and sing “La, la, la, la, la, la, la” until it goes away. Which it won’t.

Which brings me to one of the other reasons for writing this post now: Personal experience. I have been subjected to cyber-bullying/harassment and even cyber-stalking via twitter. In all the ways you can imagine. Overtly through abusive tweets, the creation of similar accounts designed to make people think they were mine, while tweeting vile and inappropriate things. Tweets of ‘suggestions’ that either I kill myself or that someone else is just “looking for rope” to do the job themselves.

Rose2 1

Subtle? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on whether or not you feel threatened or intimidated. Depends on whether or not it’s part of a pattern. An ongoing pattern of repeated harassment.

Dr Rose2 2

Again, subtle? Maybe, maybe not. If it’s part of an ongoing pattern of harassment, not so subtle.

Some don’t. While bullying is never ok, I can sort of understand it in kids. They are (relatively) powerless. They haven’t developed a sense of identity or belonging. They may not have fully developed a sense of values. They feel weak and scared and powerless, and they are not clear on who they are and what they stand for, so they push other people around — for whatever reason — to feel more powerful and important. Most people, as they grow to adulthood, manage to find their place in the world. They find their worth, they find their values. But clearly not everyone. Some remain scared, impotent, cowardly children well into adulthood. Well past the time where they should know better.

Just as insidious, though less obvious, is the “bully by proxy” or instigator. Yes, there are those too. They instigate, behind the scenes. They egg others on. They encourage, either overtly or covertly, others to do their bullying for them. It allows them plausible deniability.

And again there is the rather new phenomenon of social media piling on. In the school yard a bully can really only count on a few friends or co-conspirators to either aid them in their bullying or stand idly by and allow it. Now, such schoolyard-tyrants can have thousands of ‘followers’ to jump into the fray — why not? They don’t know the ‘victim.’ It’s “only twitter” or “just Facebook.” And they are safely, anonymously hidden away in their basements, not having to face those they torment.

They say things they would never dream of saying in person. This showed up on a friend’s Facebook page a while ago:

 

FacebookCockroach

Do you think this guy would have been willing to call someone else an “ignorant liberal” and a “cockroach” in person? Of course not. But behind a keyboard, he’s a tough-guy.

It’s not okay to bully and intimidate and harass. It’s just not.