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