According to recent reports, ‘internet bullying’ is on the rise. I sandwich the term with inverted commas because the internet is such an integral part of life these days; reality and cyberspace are split by a very thin fibre optic line and this recent news filler is purely confirmation that bullying is still an issue. The mediums through which to channel it have simply increased and have got more sophisticated.
Firstly, let’s start with the bullies themselves. It’s all too easy to bash some words into a chat window. No one knows who you are, what you’re wearing, what your hair looks like or the expression you have on your face. Indeed, practicing the art of the keyboard warrior is about as easy as eating toast.
No eye contact is involved, therefore you can say what you like and not worry about uncontrollable blushes or stutters. Unless you’ve been drinking too much coffee, you’re unlikely to stumble on a wwword, for example. You can unleash torrents of well structured, grammatically-perfect abuse.
Needless to say, people that use the likes of MSN and Facebook to call people names are about as pathetically unconfident and cowardly as it is possible to be. And this is where I struggle with the whole concept of online bullying.
The fact that the medium in this case is the internet, and the tools are social networking sites, means that anyone subscribing to such services have complete, unequivocal control over who they allow conversations with.
Facebook, for example, allows you to block people. In fact, most social network sites and chat service do. Don’t like someone? A couple of clicks and they disappear. Completely. You can’t do that in the playground.
I’m not in any way belittling or suggesting that those at the sharp end of this trend are willingly receiving abuse, but there really is a quick way out if someone decides they would prefer to spend their evenings spouting profanities about you rather than leading an interesting, normal existence.
Bullying is a hideous part of life for many people. It’s something that will never be eradicated, unfortunately, but for those stupid enough to pick the internet as their battleground of choice, their time and patience is surely going to be limited. The very fact they’ve chosen something people can control not only shows their lack of brain cells but in fact means they’ve given the people they are bullying the advantage.