I was forwarded a blog post today, written by someone I’d credited with more sense and sensitivity and who really should have known better. This person is intelligent, so the comments written were not written by accident, and were not ‘taken the wrong way’ by the people who read it – including me. I’ll not discuss it further because it upset me enormously – just like it was designed to do.
It brought me back to my running discussions about social media being the curse of the devil. Even the most intelligent and rational people cant use it properly. It’s used as a tool to hurt people. Bully people. Twist the knife.
I’ve seen my fair share of nasty things on the internet, and not all of those things have been crazy ranting and raving. No, some of the most upsetting things I see are the thinly disguised nastiness. We’ve all, I’m sure, seen those posts and blogs, the ones that are talking about one thing but are clearly about something else. When called on it the writers will claim innocence – ‘But I was writing about cheese’ or ‘I was influenced by something else’ or my favourite ‘You’ve taken it out of context.’ They will swear blind that it wasn’t an attack. It’s passive aggressive bullying. And it’s horrible to witness.
One of the issues with this type of bullying, which is incredibly common in adults rather than teenagers, is that it’s so hard to prove. Even though you can see it, maybe know the story behind what is being written and why it’s being written and who it’s really aimed at hurting, it can be difficult to make someone outside see that. Often you end up sounding paranoid or crazy. It’s a clever way to upset someone in that respect, and I’ve seen it a lot in various workplaces.
Ex-friends and partners, too, are very good at this sort of thing because they know you best and know the right buttons to push. The things to say that will hurt and upset you most, often twisting facts or rewriting history to add credibility to what they are saying, while making sure they come across like the victim. Because that’s how bullies see themselves, as victims.
No one is exempt. Just take a look at some Twitter comments made by couples who have just broken up, or friends who have fallen out. Have a look at your ex-friends Facebook page and you’ll see a lot of the ‘some people’ type of comments and targeting slogan/picture postings. Have a look at your ex-partner’s blog and see how your life together has been re-written.
It’s not pleasant. Social media is not the place to take pot shots at people, or stick the knife in. It’s not classy, and it’s not appropriate, and it always ends up dragging other people into the situation, which isn’t fair on them. Again, you’ll have seen this on Facebook if you know any teenagers.
And it’s easy to do. I’m sure many of us have done it in anger, knowing that what we put out there will get back to the person, that we will get our message across to them, that they will know what it’s about even if no one else does.
I’ve had posts aimed at me. Comments made about personal things, private things. Comments that allude to things that only a very few people are aware of. When you try to explain this to other people – friends who don’t know the situation, colleagues, solicitors, it can be very difficult to show what is really going on, which makes combatting this sort of thing very difficult.
So, what to do about it?
Well, most people get bored after a short period of time, so sometimes you just need to ignore it. Often it will only happen once or twice. Sometimes though it can develop into a pattern of behaviour that is tantamount to harassment, and that actually helps your case in the long run, although the mental anguish can be too much for some people.
And I mean everything. Screenshots are a girls best friend. Keep a folder on your computer where you store everything so it’s easy to access. And it helps if you can keep a note of the context which will help explain even the most innocent sounding of comments. It will take time to build up enough to prove your case, and that can be really shitty. Not to mention upsetting. It’s good if you can get someone else to do it for you. For instance, if you run into your bully on a night out and later they post something general about alcoholics, that could just be a co-incidence. But if something like that happens every time you see them, then that’s a pattern of behaviour. Likewise, if comments or posts appear following a change or update in your own social media activity, keep a record of it to explain when their comments appeared and following what. It’s a laborious process, and can be really upsetting, but if you need to prove things then it needs to be done. It’s not enough to go to your boss or your teacher and say ‘they’re being mean to/about me.’ Unfortunately the onus is on the targets to prove things, which is really shit.
And, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t retaliate. That’s what they want. Bullies want a reaction, they want to know that they’ve upset you. Talk to your friends about in private. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making comments yourself.
I realise, of course, that in addressing this sort of issue here I am, I suppose, reacting too. But I’ve talked a lot about bullying and anti-social media, and had been planning on addressing some more issues. I guess this just triggered me into addressing them sooner than I had intended. (you were supposed to get a piece about POV and bad guys, but that can wait.)
All in all, it’s an unpleasant thing for anyone to go through, and often what hurts people the most is not the comments made, but the fact that someone spends so much of their time and energy trying to cause upset.
Best thing you can do, if you can, is let them get on with it. Be the bigger person. See them for what they really are. Try not to mourn for the person you thought they were. Walk away.
Sorry for the long post, but it’s an important, and sadly all too common an issue, most of us will have it directed at us at some stage, and like I said, it can be really hard to deal with it.
Take care folks, behave yourselves online, and don’t eat too much chocolate tomorrow.