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Bullying In The Age Of The Internet

18/04/2016 3:45 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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A bully is someone who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. The key word here is habitually. I am sure in whatever time we have lived on this planet we have all seen some kind of bullying--we've either been victims of it, seen someone else be bullied or even been perpetrators.

The best place to see bullying in action would be your average kids' playground or school. I have even seen preschoolers aggressing against other children or trying to dominate those they perceive to be somehow weaker. In schools, colleges (where the euphemism "ragging" is used for group bullying), even workplaces and homes, you might see those with more power or clout trying to put down others, sometimes violently, just because they are different. It's a form of sadism.

With the advent of the internet, bullying has taken on a whole new shape and form...

While, these bullies are usually arrogant and narcissistic people, the behaviour can also stem from a place of envy, shame or low self-esteem. Bullies thrive on power, and that is what victimizing and spreading fear does-- it gives them an opportunity to dominate, even if in only limited areas of their life.

Physical bullying is the only kind we can recognize right away, while the verbal and the emotional manifestations are harder to pick up on; even if they are, these tend to be dismissed as less serious. But it's a grievous mistake to ignore any kind of bullying. The child bully graduates to the office bully who terrorizes his teammates or subordinates. The child bully could become an abusive spouse, or perhaps even an internet troll (more on that later). When such behaviour goes unchecked, it gives the bully confidence to ride roughshod over other people's lives. As the statistics show, bullying not only causes serious mental harm, it also kills. There's even a word for suicide due to bullying--bullycide.

With the advent of the internet, bullying has taken on a whole new shape and form as it takes away the need for the bully and bullied to physically be present in one place, and the impact that is created can resonate 100 fold across the distance. You see, I think the internet has helped create the perfect bullies or as we sometimes know them, trolls. The cyber-bully knows it all and may have intimate access to your life. A conversation shared in private can be put on public records, a statement made years ago under different circumstances can be misquoted. Or better yet, they can create some kind of a poster, a meme, a picture, or share an embarrassing video over the internet. Once the video goes viral, the life of the bullied can change forever.

The internet is the perfect place to turn into a bully, the sense of achievement is greater and the impact is higher.

It is very easy for people to make others beg, grovel and cry for their own profit or pleasure. Better still if they can shame in public, it helps them get a sense of self-esteem. It is not like no one makes mistakes, but once your mistake is put out on a platform for everyone to see, the sense of embarrassment can cause a lot of pain. The internet is the perfect place to turn into a bully, the sense of achievement is greater and the impact is higher.

That is why it is easier to become a bully or troll on the internet--there's a chance to make a serious impact under the cloak of anonymity. The anonymity it provides and yet the impact it creates. Bullying over the internet is the easiest way of harassing someone. The impact it causes can be lethal.

Sadly, bullying of all kinds has been here forever, and I do not see it going away. The least we can do is become aware ourselves and make our children equipped to deal with it. So next time, before sharing a picture, video or status update, think and question, are you being a bully too?

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