Unfortunately today, I was privy to a Facebook live video by a kind-hearted, generous and kind-hearted woman who happens to be a top-earner in her company but more importantly, a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother and friend. During a Facebook live she was doing (she dedicates time to do this every day), a disgusting, sexual, crude and inappropriate attack on her character began.
We watched Sarah being placed in an uncomfortable situation and although people tried to stop these sexually focused comments, they unfortunately derailed the value of what she was trying to originally convey in the post. What was said doesn’t matter but it does matter that there are men out there, with wives and children, who thought it clever to make derogatory comments against a woman who not only helps others in her business but uses her influence to open up orphanages and schools around the world. Sarah opens her arms to anyone who needs it and it was disgusting that this group decided to publicly humiliate and be vulgar.
It's not on.
Cyberbullies thrive on social media because the entire social network is interconnected, and there are opportunities to shame their victims in front of their social circles. Mean comments, making fun of the victim publicly on social media, gossiping, and even threatening through private messages are all ways social bullying occurs.
In Sarah's situation, I hope there will be 'justice' for their actions. Their comments may have stopped at the end of the live video but Sarah’s resolve did not. Hours were spent locating, deleting comments and blocking as many of the perpetrators as she could. She contacted Facebook to report the group and conducted another live video asking people to help. Sarah showed strength but it was obvious how rattled and understandably scared she was. This situation also showed how kind people, whether they knew Sarah or not, were supportive, sharing, commenting, reaching out to any contacts who worked at Facebook and sending messages of support.
I recently saw a further case of cyber-bullying when watching a live by makeup expert Tasha Caroline. Before doing her makeup, Tasha gives herself a mono brow (which has been nicknamed 'unis' by her followers) purely because it helps with symmetry. The comments some people chose to add were way out of line but Tasha, ever the professional, takes each comment; she won’t block anyone and has the mindset that each comment means more followers for her. This attitude is so refreshing and it’s also amazing to see how others quickly band together to support Tasha.
Adult cyber-bullying is no laughing matter. It seems every day we witness adult bullying online and off. We see blatant bullying behaviour from political candidates (especially in Australia the last few days), celebrities, respected online public figures and ordinary people who become victims of cyberbullying simply from sharing their content online.
As we become more and more dependent on technology and the internet, incidents of cyber-bullying, online harassment and abuse are continuing to increase. Although most cases that we hear about in the media are tragedies involving teenagers – it has become as much of a problem for adults, as it is for children. In fact, adults can be far more adept at hiding their online identity – and far more malicious and sophisticated in the way they use technology to harm others.
The real life impact of an internet based, adult hate campaign can be devastating – cyber-bullying, reputation attacks and harassment online have all seen lives lost, careers and businesses damaged, social and professional reputations destroyed, and entire families broken beyond repair.
Pew Research conducted a study in 2014, finding that 73% of adults have witnessed online abuse and 40% have been victims of it. Bullying hurts no matter what your age and left unchecked, can affect you (and your family) mentally, emotionally, and physically for a very long time.
Sue Scheff is a cyber-bullying survivor and author, who simply asks “how can we possibly rationalise this behaviour in adults? It’s indisputable that grown-ups should know better, and the fact that they continue to harass is despicable. And today, bullying often happens online, which creates a long-lasting emotional sting.”
Sadly, online bullying is not going away. We each need to be vigilant and address online harassment like it is happening in the “real world.” Abuse is abuse. Online spaces are created, shaped and used by real humans, with real bodies and real feelings. Harassment in online spaces is just as real and harmful as when it happens on the street, in schools and in workplaces. Targets of online abuse suffer emotionally, psychologically, economically and professionally.
I know it’s easy to say, but don’t give these individuals power. They may not stop but they may tire of targeting. Facebook’s attempt to battle the problem of online abuse by putting the burden on users suggests the company may feel relatively helpless to act on its own. Governments and society as a whole must step up to figure out how to better protect members of communities, both online and offline, from harassment and abuse.
Keep your conversations constructive.
Always find the positive even in negative situations.
Make it a habit to find a smile each day.
Ask for help.
Why? Because harassment in whatever form is not on.