How social media impacts bullying
How social media impacts bullying
Social media brings bullying to the virtual world.
Technological developments make social media easily accessible to individuals of all ages and demographics in modern times. Social media is an important platform that eases interaction between individuals by facilitating sending and receipt of messages and calls and making public posts. Much as this is the case, it also allows for the proliferation of bullying by bringing such negative behaviour to the social platforms.
An important enabling factor for bullying is that social media allows individuals to post or interact anonymously. It gives perpetrators the ability to mask their identity and attack victims without fear of reprisal.
Bullying and the prevalence of cyberbullying
Bullying refers to behaviour in which an individual intentionally and repeatedly causes harm and pain. The damage caused can be physical or emotional and directed towards intimidating or coercing the victim. For the behaviour to pass as bullying, there must be repetition. One of the areas that bullying is prevalent is within the school setting. Schools with many children are a breeding ground for bullying individuals with poor social skills and certain physical characteristics. The actions may also involve social bullying that includes leaving out individuals from group interactions on purpose or embarrassing them in public.
With the advent of social media, bullying has taken a virtual approach as victims face humiliation and abuse through the inter-webs in what is known as cyberbullying. Some of the methods used in cyber bullying include spreading lies about someone, posting embarrassing photos or messages, sending hurtful messages, and impersonating people to be mean to others. Importantly, cyberbullying can take place in conjunction with face to face bullying.
Many teens around the world have been victims of bullying on social media. According to research conducted by Pew Research Center, 59% of teens have been victims of harassment or driving online (Anderson, 2018). The most common form of bullying is name-calling. 42% of teens note that they have been name-called online or via their cell phones. 32% of the teens in the United States also note that someone has spread false rumours about them, while 21% have been subject to harassment that includes asking for information about their whereabouts and who they are with (Anderson, 2018). As is the case with the physical form of bullying, cyberbullying occurs when there is a power imbalance between individuals. Much more so, the repetition of the negative behaviour is also an aspect that extenuates the extent of bullying on social media.
The platforms with the highest number of cyberbullying cases include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
Amplification of bullying by social media
Social media amplifies bullying based on different factors that include;
- An increase in social media usage
As more people use social media, perpetrators can target a large number of victims. On the other hand, more individuals can engage in the practice based on the convenience offered by social media. More people suffer bullying online, and this is because it occurs across genders, different age levels, cultures, races, and religious boundaries. An example is that a teen in the United States is likely to bully a corporate executive in Europe. The transcendence across different borders exacerbates the impacts of driving through social media.
Social media provide a communication method that is constant, immediate, and available all day. The implication is that a victim is less likely to escape from online bullying. Much more so, the perpetrator has access to the victim at whichever time they deem appropriate.
Bullying on social media also has a notion of permanence. The permanence emanates from the essence that deleting or eliminating already published online content is difficult. Such implies that the bullying can occur over time and remain on record. The permanence of social media bullying promotes long term emotional harm to the victims.
Social media also provides users anonymity through the capabilities to mask one’s identity. Users on social media can have as many profiles as possible, including having fake identities online. The anonymity linked to social media bullying allows the perpetrators to engage in such acts for prolonged periods without the fear of apprehension. In effect, there is a little reprieve for the victims of bullying, extending the prevalence of the problem.
- Spiral of silence
Victims of social media often fail to report such incidences, thereby limiting interventions and reprieve and the likelihood to apprehend the perpetrator. The spiral of silence theory denotes that individuals will remain silent if their views do not conform to the majority opinion (Noelle-Neumann, 1974). An example is that an obese individual may face body shaming but remain silent due to the prevalent social views on the perfect body image. As such, individuals cannot speak, which increases the intensity of social media bullying.
Response to bullying
Targets of bullying on social media need to realize that the approach taken to deal with the problem may impact the outcomes. An example is that ignoring bullying often takes power from the perpetrator. On the other hand, standing up for oneself is also essential as bullies target individuals they perceive to be weaker. It is important to note that any form of bullying relies on power dynamics. Taking power from the perpetrator helps in minimizing the behaviour. Individuals should also learn to acknowledge their feelings and talk about them openly to lower the stress burden they may be experiencing. Different organizations provide a platform through which victims can find reprieve by reporting and getting the needed intervention. Utilizing such resources is essential in dealing with this prevalent problem.
Social media exacerbates the effects of bullying by giving perpetrators anonymity and the ability to reach a wider audience. Like physical bullying, it has negative effects linked to emotional harm and trauma. Individuals need to recognize the different forms of bullying on social media. Much more so, there is a need to deny perpetrators the power and control they may have over their victims.
Anderson, M. (2018). A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of Cyberbullying. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/09/27/a-mayority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/
Noelle‐Neumann, E. (1974). The spiral of silence a theory of public opinion. Journal of Communication, 24(2), 43–51.