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Online Bullying Series: Part 1 – Etiquette Does Not Side With Bullies.

For over a decade I have received requests to address the issue of cyberbullying as it relates to civility.  It’s finally time to begin that conversation.  This post is the first of a multi-post series on the subject of adult cyberbullying.

Prior to any worthwhile discussion, there needs to be a definition of what cyberbullying means. 

 

Cyberbullying is: The use of modern communication technologies (such as the Internet and cell phone) to embarrass, humiliate, threaten, or intimidate individuals in an attempt to gain power and control over them.(Glen R. Stutzky)

One can understand why children bully each other.  Steeped in juvenile insecurities and lacking self-confidence, they tear their peers down in desperate attempts to not be the lowest man on the totem pole.   The scramble to be higher on the social hierarchy begins in these early years. At an age when everything seems out of control, bullying brings a warped way of having any control.

Once people reach adulthood, there is a hoped for expectation that childish things are put away, people begin acting like responsible adults and often they do.   One of the girls who had bullied me so aggressively at age 13  had a significant change in maturity in her early 20’s and in an interesting twist of fate she and I have been Facebook friends for many years.  People can change.   Some people do not.

Miss Manners had some very pointed comments about adults who have not outgrown their childhood bullying:

Groups of people who hone in on one person to deliver an on-the-spot criticism — always with an air of belief that their catty opinions are indisputable and helpful — have provided generations of citizens with a lifetime feeling of relief that they are no longer in high school.

Even the most callous bullies are supposed to have learned something in the subsequent 30 years, if only that bullying is dangerous. The technique only worked in high school because it preys on victims during a stage of life where many are uncertain enough about themselves to worry that it is they who are wrong, and not their tormentors.    Miss Manners https://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2003/10/7/a-dirty-thirtieth   

She ends her comments to the “Gentle Reader” with this advisement:

“Etiquette does not side with bullies.”

When adults engage in power bullying, it may be motivated by insecurities and a desperate need to control people, but many times it’s simply because these people are nasty, bitchy strangers who are intent on silencing people through intimidation, libel, doxing, invasions of privacy, threats of rape or death. 

For a good example of a total stranger engaging in bullying on an epic scale as a means of punishing someone with whom she disagreed with online, read:  When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

 

{ 32 comments }

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  • Michelle February 25, 2019, 9:34 am

    After reading the linked article, all I can think is “wow”. Being so upset that a complete stranger disagrees with your opinion to the point that you stalk their social media pages and fabricate such a salacious story and do everything possible to destroy their life/reputation/business/family is a level of rage I hope I never feel or are on the receiving end of.

  • Melissa February 25, 2019, 10:27 am

    The linked story is exactly why no matter how much I may want to comment on news articles at times, I absolutely refuse to do so. The trade off is just not worth it. At the most, you’ve gotten your opinion out there. You may appear to shut down someone who is being hateful or ignorant. But, we all know that a comment on a news article isn’t actually going to change anything, so while the best you can hope for is that you’ve used your voice and someone may hear it, the worst you can fear is that someone comes after you and sabotages your entire life, or even threatens your life. I don’t care what the subject matter is, nothing is worth that. I am very passionate about my beliefs, and in certain circumstances I could only hope that I’d be willing to sacrifice my own life to stand up for what I believe in, if it were necessary. But, it’s just not really ever necessary to write comments online in order to defend yourself, a minority group, a religion, a random person, etc., and this is why. You’re never going to reap a reward, and more than likely you’ll do nothing but incite or further an ongoing argument.

    Now, this does not mean that I think the bully in this article had any right whatsoever to sabotage anyone. I’m not victim blaming. But just as we teach younger people (and remind ourselves) to lock doors, be watchful and alert of your surroundings, stay away from dangerous, unfamiliar places when you’re alone, etc, we should also be teaching the younger generation (and ourselves) about the way we present ourselves online and the dangers that we open ourselves up to when we’re interacting with strangers on the internet.

  • drnic February 25, 2019, 11:36 am

    This type of bullying is often used to silence critics. For example: physicians are concerned about online NP diploma mills and the fact that people with a fraction of the training a physician (MD/DO/MBBS) has are being allowed to practice without adequate supervision. One such physician wrote an op-ed in is local paper in which he praised NPs, but called for them to not work indecently of physicians. As a result, a huge online campaign was launched against him and he lost his job. Google Dr. Steve Maron. It also happens frequently on Twitter, where large groups of people will systematically report someone who’s opinion they don’t agree with in order to get them banned from the platform.

  • JD February 25, 2019, 12:14 pm

    That linked article is almost unbelievable. That someone would do such a vicious thing to a total stranger, over a mistaken idea of a perceived slight, no less, is horrible.
    Bullying is age-old, but the internet has taken it to new heights, because how can you stand up to anonymous strangers? Unless you go to the lengths of the victim in this article, who spent a ton of her own money to try to clear her name, you are helpless, and how many people could spend that much?
    Bullying was supposed to get stamped out in schools, but instead, it seems like the internet has let it bloom and grow. I never was successfully bullied, never saw the attraction in bullying others, and never had any respect for those who did it. I just never realized how lucky I was, until these current days.

  • Catherine St Clair February 25, 2019, 12:48 pm

    The problem is, at its heart, that our laws have not caught up with our technology. We have laws against libel and against slander, but, generally speaking, the ‘Net won’t take down what someone has put up, true or not. Lying about others has gone all the way to the highest office in our land, and it seems to be contagious: President Obama was accused of being a foreigner; his wife was accused of being a man; and there are those who refuse to believe that Prince Harry’s wife is pregnant. No one needs proof of anything. Any salacious rumor is good enough to both try and to convict someone of some horror. Until we can make the penalty for cyber-bullying so punishing that people will fear to do it, it will continue to spiral out of control.

    • admin February 25, 2019, 1:34 pm

      I’ve been online for 25 years and, yes, back over 2 decades ago there was little legal precedent for addressing libel done online. I disagree that laws have not caught up however. My own experiences over the past 20 years have been interesting and are the subject of a future blog post.

      • Catherine St Clair February 25, 2019, 2:02 pm

        I’ll be interested in what you have learned because I can imagine some people would get upset over letters you have received. Sometimes it is more of a misconception than anything else. I taught in a Catholic high school and had a Jewish student come to me because he was convinced one of his other teachers was anti-Semitic. I don’t know how he reached that conclusion, but I knew her well and she was the only Orthodox Jewish teacher on the faculty.

  • Kry February 25, 2019, 4:32 pm

    I am glad to see this topic raised.
    Last year I responded to a video my favorite Australian actor put up on Twitter and called him a ‘dag’. In Australia it means a silly person, goofball etc. It is used as a term of endearment.
    I was sent hateful messages and even threats of violence to myself and my underage children for ‘insulting’ him.
    Eventually Twitter and the actor put a stop to it but it showed how easily things like this can change a persons life.

    • Ladypynt February 28, 2019, 7:21 pm

      No, that isn’t what “dag” means at all. And you were rightly called out about it.

      • admin March 2, 2019, 11:03 pm

        Hmmm…Urban Dictionary doesn’t agree with you at all…

        An Australian slang term.
        A dag is technically the matted wool on a sheeps tail, but in typical useage throughout Australia, it refers to people who don’t have a neat, tidy or cultured appearance. It can also refer to a person who tends to be quite informal.
        It is not necessarily a derogatory term in modern useage.

        dag
        1. A turd hanging off the rear end of a sheep (caught in the fleece).

        2. Someone who is daggy, i.e. uncool. This can be meant insultingly or affectionately. (Much like that other well-known Australianism, “you old bastard”.) On the face of it, it’s an insult, but there are ways in which it is seen as admirable to be a dag – having one’s own style, not caring for public opinion, being outrageous, being a source of friendly amusement, being original.

        SO, apparently you believe it perfectly acceptable to cyberbully someone for using a word that is clearly ambiguous in its meaning.

  • staceyizme February 25, 2019, 5:25 pm

    She was bullied, severely. And damaged severely, no doubt. Her comments, to me, lack the basic discretion that one would expect of someone operating in the public sphere in that most of us can intuit that certain topics have to be handled almost with asbestos suiting/ gloves. ( Which absolutely doesn’t exonerate her persecutors!) What a sad commentary on the world that we live in and the vengeful pettiness of those who cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees.

  • vrinda February 25, 2019, 6:24 pm

    What is idiotic is the comment from BadBizReport that says “American lawyers make us laugh.” I checked out their site, and they say, “When we lived in the USA we learned how you Americans like to sue. But we do not live there anymore so you would have to find us and sue us here.” What these ignoramuses seem to ignore is that though many lawsuits are filed in the U.S., it’s not even the most litigious country in the world. According to Clements Worldwide, Germany (123.2 lawsuits per 1,000 people), Sweden (111.2/1,000), Israel (96.8/1,000), and Austria (95.9/1,000) precede the U.S. (74.5/1,000) in litigation rates.

  • Marozia February 25, 2019, 6:38 pm

    If the Rosenblum woman was so upset, why didn’t she just contact the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. I’m sure by sending them all of the information, they could’ve done some mediation.

    • Wild Irish Rose February 26, 2019, 9:53 am

      Possibly because, like me, she’d never heard of it? What exactly is the Simon Wiesenthal Centre?

      • Marozia February 26, 2019, 9:12 pm

        It’s a Jewish human right organisation established in 1977.
        If they don’t deal with these types of problems, they certainly know who will.
        I do understand Ms Rosenblum was under the influence of drugs at the time and probably all will say she was not thinking rationally, but I will also remind you all that she took the time to check Ms Glennon’s social media pages and concoct outrageous reports.
        SWC could’ve done all of this research for her and even mediation, if needed.

      • DGS February 27, 2019, 9:16 am

        Wild Irish Rose, The Simon Weisenthal Center is a non-profit organization that is involved in providing educational efforts, among other things, regarding The Holocaust. They are, along with Bnai Brith and other organizations, involved in addressing rising incidents of anti-Semitism, as well as in combatting Holocaust deniers.

        • Wild Irish Rose February 27, 2019, 11:02 am

          Thank you! I actually had no idea!

          • Mary-Anne Lahusen February 28, 2019, 5:06 am

            it’s worth mentioning who Simon Wiesenthal was: he was a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, who dedicated his life to raising public awareness of the need to hunt and prosecute Nazis who have evaded justice. His story is equally fascinating and shocking.

  • Devin February 26, 2019, 12:22 pm

    This is like the perfect storm of online bullying. First a person with an admitted drug addiction takes offense by a rather benign argument on a news story. Then cyber stalks the victim to find enough information to create the fake adultery story. Then another person, unrelated to the first, with a history of trolling this exact website, picks up the fabricated story and slanders the person further via social media.
    This insane to think that two unrelated people, one who has no reason to have any malice towards the victim, can almost ruin a person professionally and their is no recourse.
    I know laws are in place to help protect people from this exact thing, or like the teacher who lost her job because of revenge porn, but who really has 100k to fund their own legal team? Heck, all of us posting on this site could be opening ourselves up to this exact situation should an unhinged poster disagree with us!!

  • EllenS February 27, 2019, 10:36 am

    I would very much like to read your full and considered thoughts on doxxing.

    I look forward to that future post.

  • Princess Buttercup February 27, 2019, 11:46 am

    This is why I keep saying “don’t jump on hate bandwagons”. I see these posts all the time that say stuff like “make this monster go viral”. Or “warn everyone you love about this evil person”. I won’t share or even comment on those. If you, I, the friend sharing this, were not there then we have no right to share it because we do not know the real story.
    Like that picture of one of the princes that looks like he is flipping people off. But another angle shows he was waving or something. If you weren’t there to see it yourself then don’t share a story that you can’t substantiate.

    • Girlie February 28, 2019, 4:45 pm

      This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I see them all the time – a photograph of a random person with a caption accusing them of being a thief, a robber, a child molester, a puppy murderer, etc. You don’t know this person in the picture, you don’t know the person sending the picture, so how in the WORLD can you feel okay about hitting “Share” and possibly contributing to the ruin of an innocent person’s life?

    • EchoGirl March 5, 2019, 1:25 am

      For the same reason, I tend to take some of those “business claps back at awful customer’s mean review” articles with more than a grain of salt. There’s often the assumption that the business’ version of events is the unvarnished truth, when sometimes it’s just a way to deflect criticism by accusing the reviewer of being a bad customer.

  • Kitty February 27, 2019, 6:38 pm

    Any adult (or even child) stupid enough to engage in cyberbullying will get a very nasty surprise when that thing comes to bite them in the butt legally. Because you can figure out who is the one doing the cyberbullying, and you can hit them with the book very hard.

  • LizaJane February 27, 2019, 10:29 pm

    Ahhh, meth, the substance that keeps one awake for days on end enabling users to spend more time on the internet.

    Extra added bonuses are paranoia and obsessive behavior.

  • Sarah February 28, 2019, 6:23 am

    “Even the most callous bullies are supposed to have learned something in the subsequent 30 years, if only that bullying is dangerous. The technique only worked in high school because it preys on victims during a stage of life where many are uncertain enough about themselves to worry that it is they who are wrong, and not their tormentors.”

    Sometimes those of us past high school can still be in a stage of life where we are uncertain about ourselves and worry that we are wrong: First year of college, new job, meeting the in-laws, moving to a new neighbourhood, living in a different country/culture, etc. and we can still be susceptible to bullying.

    It’s always wrong, at any age and at any stage of life.

  • The Beaver You Know February 28, 2019, 7:52 pm

    What is the etiquette behind forum owners gleefully doxxing their own members?

    • admin March 11, 2019, 9:02 am

      The more interesting question is why you are a member of a secret Facebook group that brags of doxxing people, has doxed people and have been identified in Reddit and GOMI as being “mean girls”?

  • A Person March 8, 2019, 7:57 pm

    Funny that you say you don’t side with bullies. Somebody I used to talk to was a member of the forum when it existed, and they got mixed up with internet bullies who tailed them everywhere they went on the internet.

    You banned them off the forum because people were signing up to harass them…or something. It has been a very long time, but I remember that person was devastated and felt shut out because the crappy people followed them everywhere. I haven’t spoken to them in a long while although I remember how hurt they were and how betrayed they felt because this became one more website to side with the cyberbullies to shut them out.

    • admin March 11, 2019, 9:16 am

      It’s odd that you remember something from over a decade ago.

      The key point you yourself mention are the phrases “everywhere they went on the internet”, “followed them everywhere” and “one more web site”. If someone is being followed all over the Internet being harassed, the likely reason is a failure to stop posting using the same real name/ID/avatar along with a failure to stop airing the same dirty laundry everywhere that person lands on the Internet. This is “How to stop being bullied 101” stuff. If a person cannot be bothered to protect themselves in the most basic way recommended by anti-bullying experts, it is not incumbent upon me or the moderators to shield them.

      • A Person March 14, 2019, 3:03 pm

        You may want to change “can’t be bothered” to “didn’t know how.” We’re in agreement that you aren’t responsible for shielding them. I disagree on the situation being completely this person’s fault when they lacked the self help skills to handle it and did not cognitively grasp why it kept happening. (I suspect a mild intellectual disability is part of the reason.) I was annoyed at them too, until I realized how hurt and scared they were by the cyberbullying. They didn’t have the self help skills to deal with the situation and nobody tried to give them any in a manner they understood. People kept pawning them off as trouble. From their perspective, everybody was turning on them and siding with the bullies that wanted them gone.

        Have you been the target of a / c h a n board raid before? Changing usernames doesn’t help if they get someone’s email address or know how to use internet whitepages to dig up their private info. I used to hang around those boards. / c h a n board users will run someone into the ground and follow them around the internet because they think it’s hilarious. They make it impossible to start a new account if the targeted person doesn’t know how to escape them.

        I explained to this person how / c h a n raids worked and broke down the steps they needed to take to escape. I told them to stop talking about their issues in public, to use more than one email address for their online accounts, to use email aliases as much as possible, to change their private email to a new one, to change all their passwords, and to create new accounts on social media and only give those account names to people they absolutely trusted one hundred percent. I told them to stop responding to the trolls, that they cannot correct them or set them straight. I advised them to be liberal with the block features on the websites they signed up to. I told them that silence is sometimes more powerful than shouting. I treated the situation like helping an abused person escape their abuser in the middle of the night and not get hoovered back into the drama.

        They thanked me profusely. Their AIM disappeared, their Yahoo disappeared, their ICQ disappeared, their MySpace was abandoned, Twitter was abandoned, and their Dreamwidth/Livejournal (don’t recall which) got locked down to friends only or abandoned. Accounts they had on some forums went silent or deactivated.

        That was when I lost track of them. I didn’t make the “most trusted” cut and I’m fine with that. I made the steps needed to get away more cognitively accessible to them and they took it in spades. They decided on their own to admit their wrongdoing on the site where the bullying started before they went poof, and things quieted down AFAIK.

        I won’t say I’m the sole reason this person finally got away from it, but I consider myself the one who got them to grasp the situation from an outsider’s perspective and explained the steps they had to take to protect themselves. My sincerest hope is their life is better now.

        • admin March 16, 2019, 6:06 am

          Yes, you make a very good point. I commend you for taking the time because, to be honest, I’m not sure I would have been as similarly invested. The forum at that time had over 15K registered members, over 1300 posts a day and 5 moderators trying to keep up with it all. One perspective to consider is that, as the forum owner/admin, there were situations where I did not feel I should be placed in the position of judge to decide who is guilty and who is innocent. If someone joined the forum and hot on their heels are people the victim alleges are bullies following her, I have no idea what transpired on other web sites to precipitate this. Was there a sale that went bad? Was someone financially defrauded? Did the alleged victim write something so profoundly insulting and threatening that people are chasing this person? I don’t know. I banned/declined membership requests to everyone involved. Case in point: A wedding photographer who claims she is being harassed and bullied online. She sounds like a credible victim…until you realize that the people “bullying” her are 12 different clients who have paid thousands of dollars for wedding photos, never received them, they have run out of options to contact her and are now chasing her from web site to site. While I would sympathize with the plight of the “bully” victims of the con artist, I’m not sure I would allow everyone involved access to use the forum as a battleground when there has been volatile confrontations on other web sites that did not turn out well.