Bullying over the internet, also coined "cyberbullying", is a popular topic right now. With the expansion of the internet, the world of social media, and the ease at which people can reach a large audience; people are more vulnerable than ever. You may have heard of various cases across the country of children in schools being cyber bullied to the point of suicide. The laws are trying to keep up, but often people find themselves helpless from the overwhelming and devastating effects. The most worrisome is the fact that cyberbullying is prevalent, horrible, and hugely psychologically damaging to the victims; but many still overlook it as a serious concern. Haven't we all heard someone say that they were bullied in school and they turned out fine? The most encouraging aspect on this topic is that the defenselessness of cyberbullying's victims seems to be changing. A collective uncovering of the previously underground, anonymous attacks by bullies is happening now and we are finally becoming aware of the abhorrence of this behavior. In this blog post, I would like to join that movement by discussing some terms and cases that you may have not heard before.
Internet trolls, as defined by Wikipedia, are people that deliberately comment, tweet, or otherwise communicate directly to another user or users with the sole purpose of causing needless discourse. That may sound strange, but the basic idea is that there are a group of people on the internet that believe needlessly provoking people on the internet is a fun thing to do. That provocation comes in all forms, from pedestrian, caps-lock retorts to start an argument in the comment section on a YouTube cat video; to jaw-dropping rape and death threats to anyone that offers an opinion on, well, anything.
Wait, death threats? Rape threats? Yes. When we're talking about some of the most vile forms of cyberbullying, this is it. Now, I know what you're thinking. "But if we just disconnect from social media, we could avoid cyber bullying altogether, can't we?" Well, not quite. Read on for the reason why.
When someone is bullied online, especially someone of notoriety or celebrity, doxing is known as somewhat of a 'next level' of bullying. Doxing is when someone's home address, personal information, or other private data is deliberately uncovered and published online. This is something used by internet bullies to threaten the sense of safety and peace of mind of whomever is their target - and this can happen whether or not the victim has a social media account of any kind.
Anita Sarkeesian has come into the public eye after she started a Kickstarter project for her YouTube video series that examined gender norms in video games called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games in 2012. Already a strong voice for feminism in pop culture media, the project received a lot of attention. What kind of attention? She got doxxed, she received death threats, rape threats, racial slurs, her website was hacked, her wikipedia was vandalized, her speaking engagements were disrupted and one withdrawn because she received specific threats of violence against her, and she was finally forced to leave her home because she felt so unsafe. Thankfully, her Kickstarter project earned over $160,00 (original goal was $6,000) and the public attention given towards her harassment was pivotal in raising awareness of cyberbullying in the gaming community.
Ashely Judd has most recently made news because she has decided to pursue legal action against her cyberbullies. She received death and rape threats after commenting on a basketball game on Twitter. Curt Schilling outed trolls on Twitter who spewed rape threats and sexual harassment towards his daughter after he proudly announced that she got into college. And lastly, Valerie D'Orazio recently wrote how she was harassed to the point of being diagnosed with PTSD because another comic writer thought she wasn't the right person to author a particular comic book.
We have discussed in previous blogs how PTSD can come from trauma in many forms. Research on the subject of bullying, particularly internet bullying, is limited. Studies do suggest, however, that traditional bullying can cause symptoms associated with PTSD. Valerie D'Orazio boldly disclosed the post-trauma symptoms that she now experiences after her experience with cyberbullying. I hope her contribution, and others, are beginning of a new awareness of what can happen to victims of bullying online. If someone tells you they've been bullied online, please remember that cyberbullying is real, it's prevalent, it's horrible, and it can cause long-lasting effects on victims.