Mar 05 2019

The case of online harassment and cyber-bullying

Category: English posts,MiscellaneousIuliana @ 22:08

When I was a kid/adolescent, from 6 to 14 years old  I was most of the time the quiet type. I don’t remember many details, or my filters might be distorted by now but I don’t remember bullying being so bad. There were the usual fucked up kids that would say nasty things to you, maybe shove you here and there, but nothing traumatic. At least I don’t view those experience as being traumatic through my now adult eyes. But I do remember crying and asking my mom “why they won’t just leave me alone?” and my mother brushing it off and just saying that I should ignore them. Seriously, I had some intervals in my childhood when all I wanted was to be invisible. Problem with real life bullies is that you cannot ignore them. Ignoring them, only makes them desire to be noticed and be in your way.  With real-life bullying the only two possible solutions are to involve serious adults that will use any tool necessary including therapy for the bully to fix the problems in his or her life that cause violent outbursts or … and you won’t like this probably, become the bully yourself.

But online harassment and cyber-bullying, have much easier solutions. Remove yourself from the medium where the bullying happens, or put your accounts private, or block or limit access to people even trying to be assholes. I know it seems difficult or even impossible, because social networks seem like the place to be for anybody these days, but believe me it is easier than you think. Be brave and detach yourself from anything that hurts you. If somebody would call you on the phone and insult you, you would end their call and block the number, right?  Believe me, you can do the same thing on the internet.

When I was a student I was member of the university forum. I also participated to some forum meetups. All that activity ended, when after one of these meetings, where some pictures were taken, some idiot that did not like my arguments in a forum discussion attacked me for having hairy hands. It hurt at the time, to have my intelligence and opinions invalidated because of I happened to have hair on my hands. And after he posted his reply with my hairy hand, a few more forum members joined in on the attack. As a woman, I felt humiliated, because he attracted attention on a detail that I was quite sensitive about. But rationally I knew that everybody is born with some kind of bodily hair and there was little I could do about it. Sure, I could remove it from time to time, to look good in a dress or short sleeve t-shirt, but it will always be there and grow back, because that is how nature made me. It was not my fault, I had no reason to feel guilty about it or allow somebody to humiliate me for it. So I said, Fuck this! and deleted my account and cut connections with all the people I knew directly from that forum that got engaged in the online attack on me. It’s not like those people knew me anyway and I did not need their approval or validation for anything. And because of that I also learned not to give a fuck about the hair on my hands anymore. I deleted my account and guess what, nothing happened. The world did not fall on me. I did not have less friends and still got to be up to date with university events.

After I stopped being a forum member, this blog came into being. And some people from that forum migrated for a while and tried to be bullies even here. But since I manage this blog myself, I blocked their accounts and comments until they got bored and  gave up. I have no doubts that in the forum bubble there was a topic about my blog and my hairy hands and sorry ass. But I did not give a fuck. I am not a bully and I do not block every negative comment that I get. Like I mentioned in some post on my blog, I welcome different opinions. For opinions to change discussions must be had. Nobody ever changed their mind about something by never talking about it. But I will not accept malice and bullying here.

I have a Facebook account, like most of you. At the beginning I did not bother restricting access to my posts and pictures. But from time to time it happened that some creepy people were sending me messages and after the initial shock, the action was clear: block. After some time I started restricting access to my info more and more.  A few years ago, after some distant family members discovered Facebook and added me, some of them immediately started commenting on some of my old entries, or being really aggressive because of my political opinions and my atheist beliefs. Now all my family members have the role of acquaintances, which restricts them access to most of my info. And when I post something on Facebook, I usually set the “friends except acquaintances” access, because what they cannot see, they cannot be bothered by.  Now my Facebook settings are so restrictive, you cannot even send me a friend request if you are not in the friend group of one of my friends. So, all creepy messages from random people and toxic family critics are kept now far, far away from my happy bubble.

I do not have an Instagram account, I’m not an awesome photographer, so there is nothing worthy I could contribute with. I have a reddit account with a name that nobody knows. And I have this blog. So far I’ve been inconspicuous enough as to not attract any bullies, and even if that would happen, I would shut them down at the first sign of malice. And they would move on and forget about me, because unless I am really unlucky and end up pissing off a psychopath with too much time and resources on his hands, most people are too self centered to care about other people too much.  And although it sounds kinda sad, believe me, it is actually good. :)

And the last thing, if somebody harasses you or bullies you online, and blocking their access to your social media accounts, somehow does not solve the problem, ask for help. Ask your parents, ask your school council, ask anybody who is older than the internet.

Stay safe, stay happy!

(I wrote this article because I have read an article saying that 40% of Americans have experienced some form of harassment online. I cannot even imagine how many people have experienced it world-wide. I think people, especially young ones, because they are usually the targets, should be educated on how to deal with it. People can try to harass you, but if you block them access, if you stop reading their shitty messages, that is all that is left: them trying. And failing.)

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