by Jon Atack

Cyberbulllying is the online form of bullying. On the Internet, it is easy for predatory people to hide their identity and harass and distress their targets. These days, it is possible to create a vicious rumor about anyone; from a neighbor to a complete stranger at the other side of the world. Negative, and often exaggerated or false, information can be repeated, amplified and broadcast endlessly.

Cyberbullying takes many forms – from rude comments on social media, to obscene or threatening personal messages and emails; from smearing a former partner’s reputation in a chat forum, to urging a video blogger to commit suicide. Anonymity allows people to act without compassion. Even people who are normally considerate may unleash their fury on a complete stranger, because they cannot see the damage they are doing.

Predatory groups use cyberbullying to wear down the resistance of their targets, discredit critics, ruin the lives of former members, and create rifts in survivor networks: a few well-placed slanders can tear apart even the most supportive online community.

The most important thing to remember about online bullying, particularly from those we have never met, is that it’s not really about you. Even when a bully has targeted you due to your race, religion, gender orientation, opinion, appearance or anything else that makes you “different,” they are reacting, not to you, but to their own pre-conceptions and prejudices. Refusing to be shamed and cajoled into uniformity goes a long way to neutralizing a predator, and can teach those who are really expressing their pain, fear, or ignorance, a better way to communicate in our global village.

If you are the target of cyber-bullying, report it to the host of the platform; talk to your friends to relieve the hurt; block the bully, after making it known as widely as possible that they are a bully. It is usually best not to respond to aggressive comments. And remember: it isn’t you who has a problem, it is the bully.

Bullies are human predators. Find out about their characteristics here.