The anonymity of the internet allows for some seriously boorish behavior, and there’s even a term for it: “cyberbullying.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks instances of cyberbullying (also known as electronic bullying) and found that 15% of high school students and 24% of middle school students reported being cyberbullied in 2015. However, that number may be low. According to research published by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 59% of U.S. teens claimed to have been bullied or harassed online.
But online bullying affects people of all age groups, and we all know that it only takes one nasty comment or remark to leave you swirling in a spiral of self-doubt.
And that’s why you need to know how to defend against the negativity. Because, today, a strong online and social media presence is necessary, not only for staying in touch with family, friends, and those oddballs you met at the hostel in Buenos Aires, but for your professional career as well.
Use the list of practices below to help protect yourself (or your friends or your children) from the social media bullies, haters, trolls, and general meanies.
It might be difficult, but do your best to pretend those negative remarks don’t exist. Bullies and online trolls are just trying to get attention and a response. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If a person is persistent in their harassment, don’t be afraid to block them/report them.
We can all be gluttons for punishment, which is why it’s not out of the ordinary to want to read a nasty comment, but try not to reread them. It’s not easy, but treat your mind like a sieve and let the negative responses flow in — and then out.
Deflect with Humor
Sure, hurtful comments cut deep, but recognize that their opinion doesn’t reflect the truth. A self-deprecating response or a clever (but respectful) retort can subdue a tense situation.
Build a Unified Community
Don’t let one bad comment ruin the bunch. Social media is all about creating communities that share certain principles and values: A strong group will defend you and reinforce what you already know — that you’re awesome.
Maybe you’re not the one being mocked or bullied online, but odds are there’s a friend or family member in your network suffering some sort of virtual abuse. If you see a comment or insensitive language on their feed, reach out and let them know you’re there and support them.
It’s not you, it’s them. Recognize that people who harass and name-call people online are not happy-go-lucky individuals. The negativity that seeps from their cell phones and keyboards is rooted in their own insecurity. Feeling sympathy towards them rather than anger can help make you feel better about their nasty remarks.