What Can We Learn From A Year of Cyberbullying?

Rise of online harassment in 2017 is changing the way we use technology.

Posted Dec 30, 2017

Source: Pexel

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying or online harassment is a form of bullying by using electronic means. With the expansion of the technolgy, a person that was once weak or quiet can become brave and bold with a keypad behind a screen.

In 2017 we lost lives (again) from bullycide, a word now used to describe when a person takes their life that has been a victim of bullying or cyberbullying. 

According to PEW Research, online harassment is one of the key trends that is shaping the way we use technology. Lawmakers, advocates and social media companies have been looking into ways to curtail online harassment in the wake of high-profile cases concerning cyberbullying and online threats.

Rise of incivility

In 2017 we witnessed a disturbing lack of empathy among Americans. A Civility in America survey said 84 percent of Americans experienced some form of incivility and 69 percent blame the Internet and social media for the increase in conflict and digital discourse. 

Rene Longoria, 48 years-old, a double amputee due to diabetes, uses Facebook Live to sell jewelry. In the past year after his diagnosis put him out of work, like many others that use social media for extra income, working online was helping him pay the bills. That was until malicious cyberbullies discouraged him and he had enough.

"I can't believe this," Longoria told his viewers, fighting back tears. "There's too many hateful people out there."

"Sorry guys, I'm going to get off," he said. "I'm getting too emotional."

Shaming the helpless

With a lack of compassion comes the ability to cyber-humiliate those that can't defend themselves.

Grandma may not even own a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe from being cybershamed. An updated 2017 ProPublica investigation reported on some 65 recent cases of nursing-home staff sharing photos and videos of their geriatric residents, often in humiliating or compromising moments. At one facility in Michigan, a nursing assistant was accused of snapping a photo of an elderly woman on the toilet and sharing it on Snapchat.

In a similar case, an Indiana nursing assistant shared a photo of a senior’s behind on Snapchat. In San Diego, an employee was charged with elder abuse for sharing a partially naked photo of a patient getting into the shower. “It’s taking advantage of the weak, and it’s sick,” said one outraged relative, voicing the thoughts of many. "How would you feel if this happened to your own mother or grandmother?"

In Jacksonville, Florida two Navy hospital corpsmen allegedly posted a video and photos of newborns to Snapchat, including a picture showing one of them flipping the middle finger with the caption, “How I currently feel about these mini Satans.”

Shaming the defenseless is about the lowest form of cruelty.

Lessons for 2018

Civility in America survey said that 75 percent of Americans believe that we can change this culture of cruelty and it starts with us. Sixty-six percent of them have already started asking their friends, family and colleagues to be nicer to each other online.

1. Building digital resilience.

  • Prepare yourself for online hate.
  • Block and mute trolls.
  • Report and flag abusive content.
  • Know that not everything is real online.

2. Be an upstander (at any age).

  • Remember, private messages serve well to let someone know you're in their corner.
  • Be proactive in being socially responsible online.

3. Empathy combats cruelty.

  • Words matter. Choosing kindness and compassion in an age of cruelty and trolling is now imperative in our cyber-world. 
  • Never underestimate the power of your keystrokes or the tone of your post.

One thing we have learned in 2017 with the rise of online shame and cyberbullying is that people can lose a job due to a careless tweet and students will have their college acceptances revoked from mis-posts that come back to haunt them. 

The next time you witness online hate—what will you do?

“Be kind to one another.”—Ellen DeGeneres

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