Online, people make some nasty comments on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. People you have never met, and will never know will take liberty in criticizing you, berating you, humiliating you, and sometimes even continuing to stalk you online to say angry or offensive comments. It happens to adolescents…but it also happens to adults. The most frequent question I have gotten from clients, is ‘why?’
While there are numerous reasons that we could discuss for quite some time – here is the brief rundown of the top five psychological reasons I believe might explain why a bully does what they do online.
Why Are People So Mean Online?
1. Distance – When people don’t have to look you in the face, see your reactions or stand with the hurt they cause, it is far easier to inflict it. It is easier not to understand the damage done, when most of the demonstrations of pain occur out of sight. They don’t see you crying, upset, or hurt.
2. Lack of Responsibility – If someone slaps you in a public forum, or stalks you in person, there are obvious legal ramifications. Online interaction is still the wild west in many respects and laws are just starting to catch up. People often do what they can get away with…and there are often no consequences.
3. Social Rewards – It sounds crazy to say, but when people make fun of others and are mean to others, often times they find support online for their bad behavior. People laugh, they join in, they get retweeted….they may even find popularity.
4. Control – A lot of bullies do what they do, because it makes them feel powerful to be able to give a ‘virtual pushing around’ to others. Whether it is making fun of them (and hurting their feelings) or influencing the way they are seen. It is a way of being aggressive, and some people actually find pleasure in doing this to others. Emotionally fragile/insecure individuals particularly find great power in seeming to control others.
5. Lack of Empathy – People who bully online are less likely to understand the pain that such harassment brings to others. They are not sensitive to the needs or feelings of others and don’t consider them when making decisions.
Ultimately, the thing to remember is: The victim is not the reason the bully does what they do.
The cyberbully themselves hold the insecurities, lack of empathy, desire for social approval and need to control that fuels their own behavior. While it can seem a very, very personal assault, if it wasn’t you they were bullying…it would be someone else.
There are many steps to resolve cyberbullying…but in any forum, please be sure to report it.