When I was younger, bullying meant getting roughed up, having someone hide your things or say cruel words to your face or behind your back, and being isolated from your peers.
By the time I got to high school and college, bullying had turned into a blitzkrieg. It meant random posts on forums, cruel texts from anonymous numbers, negative feedback on a personal blog, or out-and-out Wall posts on Facebook.
Cyber-bullying is ten times worse than the bullying I knew when I was younger, because while you may know your tormentors in school, on the web, people can hide as “Anonymous” or under their usernames, and yet deal the same damage.
A few will be brazen to make hateful comments and identify themselves. But more often than not, you never know who’s behind the nasty post. They could be anyone—people you know or even your friends, and they will play with your head, calling you names and making you feel inferior.
The damage cyber-bullying can cause is insidious. In the US, it has driven some teens to commit suicide or commit acts of violence. I’ve had my share of cyber-bullying. An anonymous poster once wrote a hateful comment on a blog I kept, and I’ve known people who have been bullied online. What I can tell you is that it’s torture on an entirely different level. Those bullies make their comments anonymously, so there is no perpetrator to catch or confront, and they do it more than once, as if on a schedule.
Sometimes they even do it in code, as if it’s not directed at you when it actually is. It’s emotional torture, because not only does it damage your confidence and self-esteem, you are also left to wonder who could possibly want to hurt you so much.
What I can tell you is that you are never alone. It’s natural to want to be independent and be able to handle your own problems. But for this, you have to find someone to talk to. I was lucky to have my parents and my friends when this happened to me, and to be there for the people I knew when it happened to them. You have to seek out that support system. That’s how you’ll get through this.
If you think you have to cut friends loose because they may be behind it, feel free to do so. If you want to stop using targeted websites or change your current number, do that. If you want to pursue a new hobby, go ahead—it will give you self-confidence, strength and joy, and it will give you something that’s yours alone. It can even help you meet new friends. These things can help you move forward.
Also, know that it will get better. Healing from the damage of cyber-bullying can be a long journey, but trust me, the days will be better. Recently, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a bill against cyber-bullying, and once it’s passed, you can confront those bullies and keep others from having the experience you just had.
A group called Web Safety Philippines is traveling around the country and educating people on how to use the Internet wisely. Lastly, privacy and security are a must online, so don’t be afraid to check out the settings for the websites you’re using, or for your phone’s network, so you can literally block these people from your life.
Never let cyber-bullying stop you or the people you know from enjoying what the Web has to offer. It is a good place to hang out and to discover a lot of things, but always remember to use it responsibly and to remain a kind, positive user. We’re all just sharing this sandbox, and as with all sandboxes, you will go a long way if people see that no matter what, you play nice.