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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



I just wondered, do you have any guidance on what constitutes a reasonable request, versus begging?  Below is the second email I’ve received via the school email list, asking for donations for this family, who recently had a house fire.  When I received the first email, I clicked the link, thinking I could surely come up with some blankets, or cookware, or something to help them, and found that all the donation options are for cash amounts.
As some background, this is quite a well-to-do school district.  Every house on the street where the fire was has an estimated value on Zillow of over $650k.  While it’s possible that the family owned the house outright and/or carried minimal insurance, I very seriously doubt that’s the case (the donation site even mentioned that they were looking for donations to help them while they waited for insuance items to be sorted out.) 
As I said, my first instinct was charitable – to help them though the first few days before insurance kicked in with food or goods, but when I saw the only donation format possible was cash (while I know that cash is certainly helpful) my feelings changed.  Personally, I’d be thankful for unsolicited gifts from family and friends, but I’d be horrified if I found the school district was begging for cash on my behalf.  Am I being unreasonable in feeling like asking for cash for this family is over-the-top?  0124-19


Dueling Parents

I wonder if you and your readers could bring some fresh outside advice to this awkward and somewhat charged situation.

My husband & I have been married 4 years (together 9), our parents were introduced to each other in Year 1. They’ve never been overly close but have been polite (My in-laws are definitely the more friendly of the sets). My parents have their own issues; recent divorce, lifestyle choices (dating & over indulging) and poor parenting decisions of my younger siblings.

My in-laws have their own issues too; easily stressed & controlling to each other & us. There’s never been any incidents between the two sets of parents but they are clearly ‘different people’ with different views on family & relationships.

Since my son has been born the negative feelings my parents have towards my in-laws have come to boiling point. My stepmom now refuses to attend any but the most formal (Birthdays, Christenings) get-togethers and makes constant snide remarks about how unpopular they are with the rest of the family. My father also avoids our house if they are visiting and will often decline joining us if they’re also coming (though won’t be blunt and say it’s because they’re here). I have caught them gossiping about us (and our preference for my in laws) behind our backs and some very hurtful comments about me in particular. I’m starting to get very tired of this and aggravated that my parents are acting like children.

My parents often say they “never see their grandson” but are awkward when trying to arrange dates and rarely initiate planning (except at the last minute). Which means often I am already booked or my in-laws have invited us to an event/come to visit us. My in-laws are also very eager & hands on with my son and always offer to help out, whether it’s coming to babysit so I can catch up with cleaning or when we stay over they’ll take over a night feed/let us have a lie in. My parents like seeing their grandson but are quick to hand him back when he requires ‘work’, I don’t mind this but again it’s the source of nasty comments about my in-laws being ‘overbearing’. I’ve tried talking to them but they’re both stubborn & ignore anything I say.

I feel so awkward, I’ve now taken to actively trying to conceal when we meet up with my in-laws to avoid the remarks & gossiping my parents do behind our backs. Am I right in just carrying on in inviting all parents to events, then arranging separate catch ups when we’re available? I feel like going out of my way again & again to facilitate my parents (over what I do for my in-laws) is just enabling this behaviour. What can I say when the snide remarks start? And when my parents are pointedly turning down meet ups? Just to be clear, I love both sets of parents and they are a part of our son’s life. I just need help dealing with the drama my parents keep creating. 0203-19


How Not to Care When People Don’t Like You

Once again I wake up on a Sunday morning to discover that *all* of my friends from a particular social group has been having a great time at a party on Saturday night that I have been left out of. Now, I know that I can’t expect to be invited to every party. I don’t invite everyone to everything I ever put on. HOWEVER if I am organising something big I will ensure that I am inviting the whole social group. I would hate to have anyone feel as left out as I was feeling last weekend. So I don’t expect an invite, and it would be rude for me to ask why I was excluded, but was the host also rude to exclude me? How does the etiquette balance itself here? It was a big party, and from the photos that I could see it included people who are in the social group but are slightly on the outside of it, those who are friends but not always invited to things. My non-invitation felt like a very deliberate snub. I was always taught that if I couldn’t invite everyone from a social group then I should either change plans to fit a larger group or invite fewer people. It’s pretty tempting to retaliate with my own snub, but I will be following my policy of “be the bigger person”. I will, however, be reevaluating this particular friendship. I realise that as an adult I should have moved away from these feelings of being left out by now – it all feels so very high school. For now though I have deleted my social media. At least if it happens again I won’t know about it. 0109-19

I recently read an interesting article on the subject of being rejected by friends. To summarize:

1.Certain persons simply will not like you not matter what you do, and no matter how likable you think you are, you’re not going to win over every person you meet.

2. Keep in mind that it’s not just normal to be occasionally disliked, but in fact, it’s healthy. Rejection is a way to suss out who’s compatible with whom, and just as getting romantically dumped by someone leaves you open to finding a better suited partner, getting axed from a social group gives you space to find folks that are a little more your speed.

3. It’s empowering not to fear being disliked . Yes! Preach it!

4. For the most part, being disliked is a measure of mutual compatibility. So, it’s not really that it’s not you but them, so much as it’s both you and them.

5. Sometimes, you just don’t offer them enough social capital to be worth their time.

6. While you shouldn’t always blame yourself if someone doesn’t like you, if you’re finding this is a pattern, you may want to take an unbiased look at your own behavior.

7. Tell the haters to suck it. At least, tell them in your head. Grover says that when all else fails, it’s best to embrace having the occasional enemy. “Delight in it. Really, just enjoy it,” he says. After all, as Grover says, sometimes it’s actually better to be formidable.

I suggest reading the whole article…good reading.