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Cyberbullying – The Joker Behind The Screen

August 10, 2014
Cyberbullying and online harassment is as serious problem for adults as it is for children. In fact, adults can be far more adept at hiding their identity and far more malicious and sophisticated in the way they use technology than children. We are live in a world of constant pinging and beeping as smart phones and electronic devices light up with the latest messages information allowing gossip to spread faster and wider than ever before.

Cyber Space is a vast place with many screen names, fake profiles and avatars to hide behind. As we carry our electronic devices everywhere with us – I take mine everywhere – the bullying also comes with us, lurking and haunting. This leaves us wide open to attacks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In internet slag these bullying culprits are called “trolls” – they deliberately set about to upsets others by starting arguments or posting unnecessary inflammatory messages on blogs, websites, forums and chat rooms.

“Muscat – Where Can I Find” is one of the most active and popular Facebook groups here in Oman where users can ask the local community for help in searching for particular items, directions or advice. This page is a fantastic and valuable tool available to us but, like most websites these days, it has been subject to trolls thinking that they are clever to insult and ridicule others. The creator of the page, Nicholla Henderson Hall, explains to this trials of having such a dynamic page:

“The purpose of MWCIF is to help members of the Muscat community to find what they need. We have built up a credible and loyal following over the past 4 years. Although we have guidelines in place there are times when these are thrown by the way side and he forum becomes a battleground or comment war fueled by a controversial topic. As a spectator to a comment war, comments may seem funny or entertaining. We all read them with a disassociation of a person. We aren’t involved. It’s not hurting us BUT it is hurting someone. Someone who is reading the comments could feel emotionally targeted, feel like they are being being made a fool of or being disrespected. One of my BIG comments to the group is ‘think before you write’ or ‘take a step back from the computer’ when you begin to feel emotionally charged by someones words. 

The other big issue we have is that we are such a culturally diverse group with English not being the first language to many. Last year we did a survey that showed we had 49 nationalities present. What does that mean? It means the written word could potentially be interpreted in 49 different ways. This is why we have guidelines. This is why we take the time to protect content and why we have an open policy of asking members to send us anything that is insulting or disrespecting so we can promptly remove it and the culprits from the group.”

Most of us have probably at least been border line culprits ourselves at some point or degree as we exercise our ‘freedom of speech’ and push our opinions on others or take the mick out of other online users. I have been a culprit myself. Laughing at someone else’s expense on a Facebook page and watching them get rattled. At the time I thought that I was clever and witty as people ‘liked’ my comments. But what we seem forget at the time is that there is someone else on the other side of that screen with feelings reading our harsh words and opinions. My new rule of thumb – If I wouldn’t say it to the persons face then I won’t type it to them either.

As a Blogger I have chosen to put my life, my opinions and my identity out there for the world to see. I didn’t expect glorifying praise and admiration from the masses but I certainly didn’t expect to be targeted by internet trolls either. In the past two years I have had countless nasty messages and emails usually from ‘anonymous’ sources. For the most part I choose to ignore the hate, delete and then move onto the positive messages I receive every single day but something still nags me deep down inside. I just don’t understand the mentality of these people who deliberately take the time out of their day to spread hate and upset others. Maybe I never will understand but it still hurts to read the hatred directly at you.

Next time you think it is hilarious or clever to harass, intimidate or ridicule someone online then just take a second to think about how it might feel if the boot was on the other foot.

Don’t be that person.

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  • Reply Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) August 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    That’s why the girls chose to be anonymous for the most, although a good enough proportion of our readership know who one or two of us are.

    Sadly, people want to call down others, rather than suggest betterment, ect… I believe it is out of jealousy and boredom, for the most part… or they are pure weirdo stalkers… Who knows. Allah help them, ameen.

  • Reply Sythe August 11, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    haters gon hate Mrs Duncan…. 😉

  • Reply Anonymous August 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Really good article – and sadly the human condition by default is to hunt in packs.

    Make the stand. Square up to the bullies – be the champion of the underdog. It has always lead me to more trouble, but it has to be done. Email warriors are the same at work. They say stuff that they would never dream of saying to you face to face.

  • Reply Nicholla August 13, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Thanks Heather for taking the time write this article and including MWCIF in it. This is an issue which often is brushed under the carpet so its could to get it out there and make those ‘ego filled pack hunters’ just take a step back and give them time to think. 🙂 x

  • Reply Denise Bomfim August 13, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Salam, Heather!

    your post is very important. Can you imagine how do I suffer online? Because I am a Muslim woman who loves Peace. It seems that the world got crazy and we, that try to preserve the Human Rights, are fools. But we must be strong and go on writing in the name of love.
    I wish you and your baby a better world where humans learn fraternity again.
    Denise Bomfim

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