When I was in middle school and high school, I was scrawny and timid and a bit awkward. So, as you might imagine, I was quite popular amongst the school bullies. As a 6th grader, I was tackled into a shrub, got my head rammed into a basketball pole, and called home sick nearly every time we had to swim for P.E. class because of the kids who were constantly threatening to hold me under the water. In 7th grade, things calmed a little. Then in 8th grade, believe it or not, I was bullied by some 6th graders who happened to have gotten their growth spurts before me. I was pushed down into a mud puddle and punched in the face, not to mention the name-calling and mocking. I don’t list these things in order to gain sympathy (I’m well past that) but merely to say that I’ve been a victim of bullying, so I can usually recognize it when I see it.
We’ve now entered into this new technological age where kids grow up not knowing a world without computers and smartphones and tablets. With these advances in technology, we can build almost anything. There are even printers that can print in 3D. But with the building of all this new technology, we’ve also found ways to build a better bully. So, I’ve put together a list of how we done that. Here is how to build a better bully…in 5 easy steps:
1. Give them an unrestricted platform
The internet is this platform. Anybody can go to news sites or personal blogs or forums or public Facebook pages or get on Twitter and say whatever sort of mean and nasty vitriolic things that they desire to say. Sure, some sites have taken to monitoring comments and can block out the ones that they don’t like, but many still don’t. And Twitter allows quite open communication, which can lead to some pretty nasty, hate-filled things getting out into cyber space. I would not say that this has created bullies, but it certainly gives them a broader range for their attacks.
2. Remove the personal element
Before the invention of the internet, if a bully wanted to anonymously attack someone, they had to write letters or use graffiti or something of that nature. It took some significant effort. Now, people can bully others who they don’t even know with just the click of a button. In a matter of minutes, someone could tweet hatred to a whole group of people. Some even create aliases in order to keep their personal image intact. We often call these individuals “trolls.” They sit under the internet “bridge” and pick off unknowing travelers. If asked to say those same things to someone’s face, I reckon that many of them would have a much harder time doing so.
3. Put them in a club
Bullies are always more brazen when they have supporters. You want to find some of the worst bullies on the internet, look for those who have formed their own clubs to promote their brand of criticism and hatred. Look for people who surround themselves only with others who share their beliefs. Look for those who frequent the same sites in order to “gang up” on those who disagree with them. A bully is a threat, but a gang of bullies is a nightmare.
4. Find support in positions of authority
I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series recently. And in those books, the character of Draco Malfoy is a true bully. But his efforts to pick on Harry and his friends would not go nearly as far if it weren’t for the silent (and occasionally vocal) condoning of their behavior by Professor Snape. Bullies can only go so far if they don’t have support from people higher-up than them. Perhaps that means the “big name” blogger or the “high profile” leader or a particular celebrity. Backing from someone with power and a voice will give stronger voice to the bullies who look up to them.
5. Ignore the victims
Finally, bullies grow stronger, meaner, and more hate-filled when the masses ignore the victims. Allow people to get away with the vitriol and they will gain momentum and confidence. Unfortunately, most of the online bullies merely get ignored. The victims suffer alone with no one (or very few) backing them up.
The internet has helped us to build a better bully and many people have now fallen victim. If you’ve seen this, then you know. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Maybe you’ve even done some of the bullying. Well, I think it is time to take a stand. Those who are in the middle need to stand on the side of the victims. We need to support our fellow human beings and speak out against online bullying. There are many who suffer greatly at their attacks. And as Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided…Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” Open your hearts to one another and let’s take a stand against this culture of bullying we’ve built.