The Cyberbullies Among Us

This morning, I found myself involved, without any particular interest on my part, in an internet quarrel over policies between a coworker of mine and someone else.  With the names redacted to protect the innocent and the guilty, I first received an internet message from a stranger asking if I was a coworker of someone (I was) who had apparently made some sort of racist comments online.  I replied, rather simply, that I was a coworker and that our company does not tolerate racism, and left it at that, as the person did not have any documentation to justify his stance that my coworker had indeed said or done anything that was racist.  Not too long after that, the coworker in question sent me a message and said that the other fellow was trying to dox him through me.  I told my coworker not to worry about it and that I’m not the sort of person who gives a great deal of credence to unsubstantiated accusations.  Political disagreements happen and people often become cyberbullies because they cannot handle the opinions of others.

While I cannot vouch for my coworker’s innocence or, conversely, for the truth of the accusations made by the stranger, the fact that it appears to have come through a political disagreement is itself significant.  As someone who has a pretty large online presence, the question of cyberbullying and doxing and related problems is one that often comes through my mind.  I often feel concerned about how my own writing will be taken, and if people will feel bullied by even my implicit discussion and comments about them.  I tend not to be someone who is easily offended but when I am offended I tend to be deeply offended, and since I am fairly open and public about what bothers me, I have noticed that people tend to view me as far more prickly than I am, which is prickly enough.  As someone with a loud and sometimes strident online voice, I am sensitive to the fact that other people may feel themselves bullied or shamed by what I say relating to them even where that is no intent on my side to do that [1].

The contemporary world has many ways to shame other people.  The sharing of private conversations with others in order to influence behavior, the mobilizing of others on social media to share pictures or to engage in concentrated and targeted abuse of others is something that is fairly easy to accomplish and can result in a great deal of suffering for others.  As someone whose somewhat opinionated nature and status as a frequent critic of books and other material tends to cause offense to others, I tend to be somewhat sympathetic to others who are the nature of targeted social media attacks, since they have happened often enough to me.  There is a certain natural solidarity among those who are the victims of bullying and abuse, and the knowledge that one can innocently be caught up in these matters and be the subject of large amounts of hateful speech from others tends to make one rather skittish about being involved in spreading hateful speech about others.  At least that ought to be the case, that we would be sensitive to how we are treated and make sure that if we find some sort of treatment by others to be abhorrent not to treat others that way either.

After all, when we become cyberbullies of even people who have done great evil, we become in many ways like them.  There can be a certain pleasure, for example, in shaming someone whose moral and political views greatly offend us, but doing so puts us in the position of fascist oppressors of those whose opinions differ for our own.  To use fascist means to attack those we deem as fascists hardly puts us in a positive light.  The fact that such sort of shaming is so ubiquitous in our society that it is even done by those who consider themselves to be reputable news sources but are in reality gossip rags and libel machines does not justify our behaving in like fashion, but it does suggest that it is far easier to be a bully than we may often believe.  It is deeply ironic that in an age where there are so many efforts against bullying that exist, many of those who are the most vociferous about the way that others have bullied them are often just as casual in bullying others themselves.  Oh, that we would be more reflective of our ways, and more kind even in an unkind world such as our own.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/12/16/book-review-hot-buttons-bullying-edition/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/17/the-bully-as-coward/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/09/24/shut-up-you-talk-too-much/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/09/07/quos-deus-vult-perdere-prius-dementat/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/16/stop-making-sense/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/27/listen-without-trolling-a-reflection-on-george-michael/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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