I'm a Mother not a Martyr…

Online Bullying

Bullying in any form is something that I feel very passionate about.

As a child at middle school, I was bullied on a daily basis for about 12 months.  When I moved to secondary school, it continued.

When I was at college, I had no prior history with anyone, and for the first time in years, I was able to be me. I loved that time.

However, being at college in the early 90s, there was no internet back then, no social networking, nothing.

Every interaction you had with another person was done either face to face, voice to voice on the phone, or by a letter.

It was a far more obvious scenario when you’re being bullied than it is nowadays, and while the internet and social media has made the world a different place, bullying is still rife, just slightly more veiled than it used to be.

I’m a remarkably tolerant person, more so than the next, and I always like to believe that when someone writes a comment on a forum, message board, twitter, wherever, that may be a little cutting, that there’s always a reason behind it.  Perhaps something going on in their own life at home.

However, not everyone is as aware as me, and though this isn’t meant disrespectfully, age does play a factor. I’ve got more wisdom on my side at 38 than I did 15 years ago at 23, and experience at dealing with other human beings goes a long way to how you see and perceive things.

Bullying by exclusion is one of the most underhand ways to pick on a person.

They’re tweeting away to you, and you simply ignore them. Well, that’s fine if you don’t want to interact, but if it’s someone who’s previously been part of your ‘group’ of online chums, then ignoring them is going to hit them hard.

Or what about when you’re reading twitter and you see a group of people that you felt close to, arranging a trip or event, but they’re not including you.

Granted, there could be genuine reasons, particularly geographical ones, but if that’s not the case and you don’t understand why they’re not including you, it doesn’t hurt any less.

I recently tweeted about the use of cutting comments on twitter that are finished with a kiss.  That doesn’t make them any less spiteful, just far more passive aggressive.

Which leads me to one of my biggest bug bears. Passive Aggressive bullying.  If you don’t know what being passive aggressive means, the most basic example I can give of a face to face situation is as follows.

Girl A with new hairdo that she’s happy with “What do you think of my new hairdo”

Girl B with passive aggressive attitude “I don’t mean to be rude, but I preferred it the other way” said with a smile on their face.

Instantly you’re knocked because that person hasn’t liked your hair do.

Okay, so asking for other people’s opinion is always a risky business, but it’s still the same.  Knocking someone down when all they wanted was reassurance.

And I’ve always maintained that if you start a sentence ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but’ means that you’re going to anyway. It’s as though that ‘but’ is absolving you of the actual rudeness that’s going to come out…

In face to face situations, I’m quick enough now to interrupt and say ‘well don’t then’ which usually shuts the person up quickly.  But I’ve learned that over many years…

I find twitter a fascinating study in human behaviour.  You’ll watch a couple of people interacting with each other, it could be as banal as ‘I like blue skies and clouds’ and the other person prefers rain and rainbows.  Shortly after, rainbow person types up a tweet status saying ‘I can’t understand how anyone wouldn’t like Rain and Rainbows’ prompting all their followers to say ‘gosh, neither can I’ type tweets.

I may be a bit more black and white than the next person, I admit that, but there are times when I want to reach into my computer and wallop a few heads and say ‘do you not realise how you’ve made that person feel?’

It’s even worse when you see the non rainbow person miserably tweet ‘not sure what I did wrong’ and all you want to do is give them a hug and tell them to step away from the people hiding in their computer.

Trolling is a whole other ball game. I’ve been attacked online on a few occasions.  The first time was when I was planning my wedding.  There were a couple of big online message boards back then, and it was like 2 gangs.  You could be a Hitcher or a Confettier.  Never the twain should meet… I was a confetti girl and loved my time there.  And in fact, good friends of mine were Hitchers, and also loved their time!  Funnily enough, both places were very similar.

But it was a bit of a war culture.

There were rogues in each camp and they took delight in going over to the ‘other side’ deliberately to poke and make fun.  Unfortunately, one girl went to Hitched, taking pictures of my wedding dress and plans with her as her ‘cover’.  I was ripped to shreds when they came to Confetti to deliver pay back.  My wedding plans were made a mockery, I was told I was ugly, that my plans were rubbish and that my dress would make me look like various things including a pig, dog etc etc.

I was heartbroken.  My now husband put me back together and it was him that coined my phrase of ‘people who live inside your computer, switch it off’.

Another occasion was via the wonderful world of twitter.  I’d written a badly worded article that inadvertently used other people as a bad example of blogging. It was absolutely my error in judgement and I held my hands up to that. I both publicly and privately apologised to the individuals.

I deserved the criticism I got for the article, what I didn’t deserve was the personal attacks on me as an individual, my home life, my children, my career as a makeup artist.

There is never any call for attacking someone personally.  Disagree with their written words, but don’t make it personal.

For a long time, I stayed away from twitter, facebook and even turned off the incoming links to my website as I couldn’t stand seeing dozens of attack posts coming in.

However, as someone ‘older’ and with a family, I was able to put my focus elsewhere, and at the time, I was dealing with a Mum having to go and have an emergency hysterectomy following a cancer scare, so switching off from what was going on in my online life was fairly easy.

Don’t get me wrong, it did eat me up when I allowed myself to think about it, but what I’m trying to say is, had I not had other distractions, I wonder where I may have ended up.

I’m not here to give advice on how to deal with online bullying.  I’m neither qualified, nor anywhere near experienced enough, though I will put links at the bottom.

What I do want to do is ask anyone who reads this to just keep their eyes open for bullying by exclusion, passive aggressive comments on twitter/facebook/blogs etc and just watch out for anyone you feel may be a bit vulnerable.

http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/

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