Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bullies, Bystanders and Innocent Lives Lost

Title states that internet bullies hurt real people

It has been a few months since I got involved in support groups promoting awareness about cyber bullying in schools. Apart from the volunteering aspect of my involvement, I have had to opportunity to learn a lot on the subject. Among other things, I learned that the term "Cyber Bullying" is mostly used when the victim of the alleged harassment is a child. When the alleged victim is an adult, it is called "Cyber Harassment." With the proliferation of the internet and social media, more adults than ever have become victims of internet harassment. Unfortunately, many cyber bullies or perpetrators conveniently cite their First Amendment right to free speech.  However, the game changes when this free speech causes harm to other private citizens and claims innocent victims.

Internet changed the bullying landscape by allowing harassers to take their hatred to whole new level. Harassment, in the name of free speech, today has morphed into ugly multimedia attacks. As a result, news of innocent victims of cyber bullying being driven to suicide by relentless well orchestrated internet hate campaigns is common today.

The story is all too familiar: The victim tries to complain about their plight to those in charge and have substantial authority over the perpetrators to stop them. However, their pleas too often are met with disdain. Most often the victim is met by statements from these authorities such as "Stop making such a big deal about it. I don’t understand why you’re upset."

Duh? The bullied are complaining because they are being harassed. They are complaining because they have become the victims of some very sick minds. They are complaining because they believe something can be done about it. They are not complaining because they oppose another private citizen's first amendment right. They complain because they are hurt. They complain because they haven't lost faith in the system and believe that the system would rise to the occasion and protect them.

By looking the other way and failing to step up, the authorities, in essence defend the bully. They attack the victim for trying to deny the bully the freedom to harass those that the bully apparently doesn’t like. They tell the victims that the best way out is to just ignore the attacks.

This sadly doesn't help the victim. It helps the authorities because they fear the bully. They are too afraid to deal with the problem, thereby turning into stoic bystanders. Such bystanders are totally unworthy of any respect because they clearly demonstrate their cowardice.

The victim, faced by public humiliation and shame, many a times ends up committing suicide.  Hindsight being 20/20, lives may have been saved if these bystanders "grew a set" and did everything in their power to stop the bullies.

Some more resources:

How to handle internet harassment 

Cyber harassment and the law