The term 'cyberbullying' has been thrown around the media in a way that almost makes it unnoticeable. We read of paedophilia, porn sites, the effects on children, and this can sometimes make cyberbullying an 'it-could-never-happen-to-me' phenomenon but, the truth is, we are closer than we think. We are putting ourselves out there more and more online. We are exposing more of ourselves on sites like Facebook, on forums and blog sites where we have no idea of the audience, and talking to people we would never have met without the internet. This is incredible, as we can glimpse cultures we wouldn't otherwise have known and meet people from many different areas of the life spectrum. However, we can also see more of the darker side of human nature, and that isn't something that ends up being easy.
The internet is very easy to manipulate. You can create an image of yourself, as the person that you'd like other people to see and, since you aren't in physical contact with these people, they only see the 'good' side of you. We try to teach this to children, to stress that E-safety is of utmost importance and it is, it's just, we never really got taught about it ourselves. Our children are learning things we never learned and the trouble is, when you do learn them, you learn the hard way.
My experience of the internet as a negative force hit me quite hard. Well, in truth, it hit me very hard and I can't say that I am thrilled with the way I coped with it. I've come out the other side now, I'd like to say, but I still get a jolt here and there when I see people communicating with those people who really, really hurt me. I'm not for a second saying that they shouldn't, I'm just saying that it hurts.
The trouble with being online is that you don't see all sides of the story. When you are receiving messages undermining you and your personality, only you and the senders are seeing those messages. You are trapped, frozen, because the senders are painting you out to be a difficult, unreasonable person and you don't feel as though you have any evidence to the contrary. You don't want to seem like a snitch, or seem like you're whining, or as though you're simply being paranoid, because, in your mind, that's how other people might perceive you. After all, the messages don't necessarily say anything properly insulting, they are more a sly attack on your character and who you are, so you're caught between a rock and a hard place, and you have no idea what is being said to anybody else or who, if anyone, you can trust. You can't tell anyone because, after all, what could you say? These people said that I didn't care about my friends? That I came across as arrogant? Nevermind that conversations such as these may have gone on for hours, or, in a sense, for months. People might laugh. These people were your friends. Isn't it just friendly banter? Aren't you just making a mountain out of a molehill? People might wonder why you are getting upset about something so trivial. I mean, we come across negative opinions every single day, why would this be any different?
What I am saying - or trying to - is that cyberbullying can take place in many forms. We read about it being a certain way but it can present in so many others. No one way is harder than another. No one way should be written off because it is not 'bad enough' or because you don't 'see' it or because you have mutual friends with the people in question. It still feels like sometimes there is a knife in your chest and it is twisting. And, the trouble is, no matter how much you block these people out of your life, they're still going to have mutual friends with them, and it is still going to feel like they're working against you, every single day.