In today’s social media-heavy environment, online bullying is all too easy. Especially vulnerable are children and teens, who are susceptible to harassment from their peers or even adults. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr make it easy to go anonymous and for bullies to be hurtful and trigger young teens without any sort of consequence. Unfortunately, many schools have been hesitant to do anything about it. Recently, more and more teens have been speaking up about online bullying.
“I had a really good friend in Germany, Shelby, who had a friend named Tyler, who kept talking shit to me on Facebook,” says Victor Silva, 17.“Calling me [names] and saying that what I’m doing is unnatural, he called me a ‘tranny’ too.”
Victor says the harassment affected him, but not for the reasons his bully might have intended.
“It made me angry, and not for the reason one might assume,” he adds.“I wasn’t angry because he said I wasn’t as much of a man as him, I was angry because he was so ignorant. [He] honestly and completely believed everything he was saying to me was accurate.”
Sometimes harassment comes in an anonymous wave that threatens to drown the recipient in hateful messages. “I posted a picture on the internet, on a body positive post about women with large breasts, because a lot of women were doing it,” writes Erin Moore. “It was nice, a bunch of women embracing their bodies and feeling confident enough to post them, and share them under a body positive post.”
Unfortunately, Erin soon encountered the ugly side of social media.
“I wasn’t the only one being harassed,” she adds,“some other women were too. Comments ranged from telling me that all I had were fat breasts that didn’t count, and I was disgusting ─ to just frankly telling me that I was conceited.”
Just what is it that drives bullies to harass their victims online? “There’s an old stereotype about bullies having rough home lives,” says Patrick Connor Esquire, a child Abuse Lawyer from Houston, Texas. “The thing is, it’s often true. Many abusers act the way they do because they were abused themselves.”
Erin speculates that the people harassing her may have been acting on their own low self-esteem.
“The women attacking me were mostly thin women with smaller breasts (not that that’s a bad thing). I don’t know if that pertains, but I feel like the root of the hate could’ve been from the other women’s insecurity about their own breasts, or just insecurities in general.”
Eventually, the harassment got so bad that Erin decided to delete the post.
“There were hundreds of hate comments, which eventually just led me to delete the photo. It knocked down my self-esteem a lot.”
In extreme cases, a web page might be dedicated to hating a single person. Rhianna Banks hadfirsthand experience with this, when a classmate made a Facebook page called “I Hate Rhianna Banks.” Here’s what she had to say:
“I was in 6th grade, but I wanted to be friends with this girl in middle school. SoI’d message her, but she never told me that I annoyed her or something. So her 10th grader friends went on ask.fm off of anonymous and started calling me names, telling me I was a disgusting creepy stalker. ButI only really wanted to be her friend.”
Ask.fm is an app supposedly dedicated to sharing compliments, but many times is used to post hateful messages. “I don’t even know why people use it because they get bullied so much on it,” said one teen interviewed by WGNO New Orleans. “It’s addicting to see what other people say. Why? I don’t even know. There’s just something about it that makes you want to see if your name pops up, for something good or something bad.”