A significant result of the digitization of society has been the increase in cyberbullying, a 21st century form of bullying among teenagers.” –Paul Miller

Some people may not have heard the term "cyberbullying" before. Some may have heard about it and argued that cyberbullying doesn’t exist. Still, others don’t believe that people can be cyberbullied, that the anonymity of one’s words has no bearing on others. A large majority of people agree that it’s merely teenagers joking with each other.

Wrong.

Cyberbullying by definition is: The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

How does cyberbullying occur?

Unlike bullies, cyberbullies engage in anonymously berating people as it makes them less mindful in their cruel, online endeavors. Cyberbullies are often found taunting people in Internet polls, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter posts, Tumblr blogs and in online gaming lobbies and matches.


Why do people cyberbully?

People cyberbully one another to obtain a position of power. They are driven by rage, a sense of revenge and frustration. Some people do it because they have a lot of time on their hands. Other people do it to invalidate others’ circumstances in an attempt to be funny. Cyberbullies also feel like they have more leeway to shame and denounce others who express themselves over the Internet for entertainment. People likely become cyberbullies because at some point in their lives, they were cyberbully victims.

This occurrence can be lessened by reminding the victim that productive activities such as hiking, deep breathing, going for walks, writing, drawing, exercising, yoga, and meditating are a few healthier, positive ways to empower themselves. Rarely, will people cyberbully others out of blind stupidity, unless they’re with their friends. By stupidity, it means ridiculing people impulsively. Some people cyberbully others because they feel weak. They might’ve felt as if they had no say in anything; because they felt they weren’t able to defend themselves or voice out their opinions in person, derogating people online gave them a sense of feeling invincible.


In what forms does cyberbullying manifest itself?

Cyberbullying is exhibited through racist, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, transphobic or xenophobic cyber threats or insults, exclusion, impersonation, cyber stalking, harassment, flaming, gaslighting and gossip. Cyberbully-gaslighting occurs when cyberbullies attempt to intimidate others psychologically. Cyberbullies more so gaslight people they know (e.g. a friend, someone they're dating, spouse, domestic partner or blood-family-member). Flaming, defined as a written form of emotional, psychological and sexual abuse used over social media or online forums, is when cyberbullies intimidate and insult people with the confidence that they don’t have to show themselves. While many cyberbully-flamers will instigate disputes on almost anything, some are found attacking others when they are, for example, making conversation with one another. Foul comments, emails or messages that signify blind fury and absurdity are examples of flaming. A way of recognizing if someone you know is being flamed, is to recognize their emotional reaction to the messages they've been sent.


Cyberbullying victims are two to nine times likely to commit suicide than those who are not victims of the aforementioned tactics. Moreover, about 58 percent of people who are cyberbullied admit to their peers that they have been cyberbullied, while one in four students have said it has happened more than once. Though cyberbullying is commonly associated with Caucasian women and men, statistics, which factor race and gender, show that cyberbullying is more common among black women than black men. Sixty percent of females reported being a victim of cyberbullying, which was 10 percent higher than males.


In my junior year of high school, I was friends with two of my peers. They’d often smoke weed. Whenever I'd hang out with them, they'd ask me when I'd be up smoking with them. At the time, I wanted to try it because I felt like it was going to cure my depression and post-traumatic stress. I was still unsure. I was reluctantly thinking maybe, but, at the same time, I kind of didn't want to say no to them. I did smoke with them a few times. After hanging out with them for about two weeks, I started rethinking why I continued smoking with these guys.

I thought to myself: If I continue to smoke, would I be doing it because I thought my mental illnesses and my issues at home would immediately go away? Would I be doing it in hope that these so-called “friends” would continue faking their respect to me? Would I be doing it to be “cool?”

I stopped talking to them afterwards. In that same week, I was on Facebook and posted a status along the lines of: “Smoking weed just isn't my thing.”

I didn’t censure people for smoking. I didn't think anyone was any less a person for smoking. I just chose not to smoke anymore.

I was entitled to my decision to just say no. I was still friends with them on Facebook, unfortunately. Once in awhile, these guys would hurl barrages of insults at me. They made fun of me for not smoking with them anymore. One evening, one of them posted a comment on my Facebook wall snarkily saying: “You need to take a 30-rack of beer to your face and get laid.”

As if their vilification of me wasn't stereotypical and demeaning enough, I stood up for myself. Several days later, these guys continued to comment on my Facebook wall, saying I “sounded like an old man”; a nerd, a loser, who suggested I should just kill myself.

I’m my own person. Again, I have the choice to say no. I can make my own decisions. They don't include lowering my moral standards to benefit anyone else’s.

Don’t belittle my self-esteem because I told you, “No.”
Don’t invalidate my decision because I’ve refused to reconcile myself to your stereotypical idealizations of me.

Again, words can hurt, in person and online.

Cyberbullying is a major issue. We can’t expect anyone in this society to open themselves up to anyone, trust anyone and receive treatment, if we are unwilling to acknowledge what cyberbullying is, that it exists and how harmful it can be to us. We need to make ourselves more aware of cyberbullying by educating ourselves, being more mindful of what we say to each other and disconnecting ourselves from the Internet.