Bullying is an unfortunate part of our society and technology makes it incredibly easy for people to bully others.
I want to address the topic of bullying because there have been various trolls plaguing the mental health community on Twitter within the last year. I and various people I know have been a victim of these try-hard keyboard warriors so I want to do my part in educating the public about bullying and the affect it can have on a person and their mental health, as bullying can lead or contribute to anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide.
You’ll see some real situations of cyberbullying if you stick around until the end. They’re at the end of this post in case you choose to not look at them.
What is bullying?
We all know what bullying is. It’s an intentional act of intimidating, coercing, scaring or harming someone. It’s unwanted, aggressive behavior of an often repetitive nature.
Acts of bullying can include but are not limited to the following:
- name calling
- spreading rumors
- social exclusion
- hurtful pranks
- public humiliation
- inflicting physical pain
- defacing one’s property
Calling someone derogatory names or slurs, starting or spreading rumors about someone, purposefully excluding someone from gatherings or events, harmfully hazing or pranking someone, inflicting emotional or physical pain upon someone, or stealing or defacing someone’s property are all considered types of bullying.
As bullying is done by people and people are everywhere, bullying can happen anywhere and everywhere people are. This includes at home, school, work and online.
The different modes and types of bullying are best described on StopBullying.gov‘s website, so I’m quoting them directly.
The current definition acknowledges two modes and four types by which youth can be bullied or can bully others. The two modes of bullying include direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). In addition to these two modes, the four types of bullying include broad categories of physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.
Why does bullying happen?
Bullying is a learned behavior. According to StompOutBullying.org,
a common reason that a kid is a bully is because he/she lacks attention from a parent at home and lashes out at others for attention. This can include neglected children, children of divorced parents, or children with parents under the regular influence of drugs/alcohol.
Some bullies don’t understand how wrong or inappropriate their behavior is, and others simply don’t care. Many bullies have never learned true kindness, compassion and respect, and it’s extremely likely that all bullies have either been bullied themselves or grew up in an emotionally or physically abusive household.
Bullying behavior can absolutely be unlearned if the bully wants to change how they relate to and treat people.
How to protect yourself from bullies
People who choose to bully do so to feel powerful, and because they lack compassion and respect for others. Their goal is to get a reaction from the person(s) they’re bullying, so ignoring them is a plausible option in dealing with their behavior. They’ll likely get bored and leave you alone. Responding or arguing with the bully will only encourage them to continue their behavior.
Another option in dealing with a bully is using a buddy system. Most bullies target people who they assume is weaker than them and who is standing alone, but they likely won’t bother trying to bully someone in a group. I understand this isn’t always an option, though. I often walked alone in school so I didn’t have many opportunities to utilize the buddy system.
If ignoring or utilizing a buddy system isn’t working and you’re still being bullied, it may be time to speak to a parent, teacher, counselor or other trusted adult who has more authority to take action and help stop the bullying behavior. Speaking up is not considered “tattling”.
I haven’t been able to get out much and I have very few friends because of my struggles with my mental health within the past few years, so I’m targeted primarily online. In my experience, ignoring them always works best. First, I always take screenshots and jot down any relevant information and save it in a folder on Google Drive in case I ever need it in the future, like for legal action (yep, you can take legal action if it escalates or becomes a threatening situation!). After that, I report their comments and social media account, block them, and forget about them!
When bullying becomes criminal
Many bullies stick to spewing out insults and rumors, but their behavior can become criminal so it’s important you know the signs and protect yourself, and seek legal action if necessary.
Bullying can become a crime if any of the following are involved:
- Harassing someone for any reason
- Making harassing or obscene calls or texts
- Taking a photo of someone in a location where privacy is expected
- Extortion (including sexual exploitation)
- Hate crimes
- Child pornography
- Making violent threats
- Making death threats
If you ever experience anything on this list, please first ensure you’re safe and report it immediately.
The best thing you can do is take screenshots or collect any proof of the abuse, including dates and times the abuse occurred. Also make note of everyone involved and details of what was said or done. After that, you’ll be able to report it to the proper authorities, whether that’s a social media website, school administration, human resources department or police department.
15 startling facts about bullying
- A child is bullied every 7 seconds.
- In the US, 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 has been bullied during the school year.
- Over half of students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied believed their bullies had the ability to influence what other students thought of them.
- Students who reported that they were frequently bullied scored lower in reading, mathematics, and science than their peers who reported that they were never or rarely bullied.
- The most commonly reported type of bullying is verbal harassment (79%), followed by social harassment (50%), physical bullying (29%), and cyberbullying (25%).
- More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
- 42% percent of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that the bullying was related to at least one of the following characteristics: physical appearance (30%), race (10%), gender (8%), disability (7%), ethnicity (7%), religion (5%), and sexual orientation (4%).
- More than half of people under 25 have experienced bullying at some point.
- Those who bully are far more likely to have experienced stressful and traumatic situations in recent times.
- Of those who bullied daily, 58% had experienced the death of a relative.
- The #1 most common reason why people experience bullying is because of attitudes towards their appearance, with attitudes towards hobbies & interests and high grades coming in close in second and third place.
- 69% of people have admitted to doing something abusive to another person online.
- More than a quarter of people have had suicidal thoughts as a result of cyberbullying.
- 20% of people surveyed, said that they often experienced verbal bullying.
- 5% of people surveyed, said that they constantly experienced physical bullying.
The people over at StompOutBullying.org did such a great job of putting together a list of resources so I wanted to include a link to their resource page in this post. Please click here for a list of the resources they put together.
Please reach out to me, a friend, family member or trusted adult if you need help or support. You are not alone. And, if you’re being targeted by a bully, it’s not your fault.
Real instances of cyberbullying
Here are some screenshots of actual cyberbullying. Most of these are screenshots of messages directed at me but I included one from one of my friends from mental health Twitter, Kandace.
I and Kandace didn’t bother responding to these laughable insults by a random stranger who doesn’t know either of us. All of these instances, as well as ones not pictured here, contain the same language and terminology, leading us to believe it’s one person creating multiple accounts to try and bully us and others in the mental health community online.
You can’t let bullies get to you. Their words and insults are meaningless. Many bullies, like the one featured in these screenshots, love using a person’s weight to try and shame them. They like using insults like “fat” to describe a person’s body. But it’s important to remember they just want a reaction from their abuse. If I were a thin woman, they would still spout insults at me.
Please don’t let their words affect you! And please speak up if you’re being bullied, or if you witness bullying.
Since I published this post, someone who has been targeting me and others in the mental health community on Twitter has attempted to post over 10 comments. They all include the same hateful language and insults, making it clear this person is extremely mentally disturbed. It also proves this person grew up in a household that lacked love and compassion, and they were likely emotionally or physically abused (or both).
I originally approved some of their comments to be published on this post to help educate others on actual cyberbullying (instead of just examples), but I have since decided to remove them for their own protection. They clearly need immediate and intense psychological help, and I don’t want to hinder their recovery in any way. Let’s hope they receive the help they desperately need and deserve!