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Cyberbullying - online bullying
Dealing with cyber bullies, flame mail, hate mail
(adapted from Bully Online, reproduced with permission)
Updated: Aug 2009)
The Internet provides the perfect forum for cyberbullies, individuals
whose aim is to gain gratification from the distress caused by provoking and tormenting
The anonymity, ease of provocation, and almost infinite source of targets means
the Internet is full of predators from pedophiles targeting children to serial bullies
targeting ... anybody.
Cyberbullies get a perverse sense of satisfaction (called gratification)
from sending people flame mail and hate mail. Flame mail is an email whose contents are
designed to inflame and enrage. Hate mail is hatred (including prejudice, racism, sexism
etc) in an email.
Serial bullies harbour a lot of internal aggression which they direct at others.
This may include projection, false criticism and patronising sarcasm whilst contributing nothing of any value. It may also include a common
tactic of "a number of people have emailed me backchannel to agree with me".
This is standard bully-speak which I've experienced on several forums.
In every case it's
a fabrication or a distortion - usually the former. It's also a variant of the serial
bully head teacher who says "a number of parents have complained to me about
you...". When challenged, the identity of the alleged complainants can't be
disclosed because it's "confidential".
The purpose of this tactic is to wind people up. Don't be fooled into believing it has any
validity - it doesn't.
People who bully are adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool
negative information about them.
The method of creating conflict is provocation which bullies delight in because they know they can always coerce at least one person to respond
in a manner which can then be distorted and used to further flame and inflame people. And so it goes on.
The bully then sits back and gains gratification from seeing others engage
in destructive behaviour towards each other. This is known as trolling - see: Trolling The Web for more information about their tactics.
Most serial bullies are also serial attention-seekers. More than anything else they want attention. It doesn't matter what type of attention they get, positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them attention.
It's like a 2-year-old child throwing a tantrum to get attention from a parent. The best way to treat bullies is to refuse to respond and to refuse to engage them - which they really hate.
In other words, do not reply to their postings, and on forums carry on posting without reference to their postings as if they didn't exist. In other words, treat nobodies as nobodies.
The anger of a serial bully is especially apparent when they come across someone who can see through them to espy the weak, inadequate, immature, dysfunctional aggressive individual behind the mask.
If you receive abusive posts or hate mail from someone on the urban75 bulletin board, use the 'report this post' function, inform a moderator or mail the admin team
If you are receiving persistent abusive emails , forward them to abuse@isp where "isp" is the service
provider the abuser is using, eg "aol.com" or "yahoo.com".
Although Internet service providers may not act on every complaint, the more complaints they
receive about a particular individual (with examples of abusive email) the more likely
they are to close down the person's account.
The objectives of bullies are Power, Control, Domination, Subjugation.
They get a kick out of seeing you react.
It doesn't matter how you react, the fact they've
successful provoked a reaction is, to the bully, a sign that their attempt at control have
After that, it's a question of wearing you down. The more your
try to explain, negotiate, conciliate, etc the more gratification they obtain
from your increasingly desperate attempts to communicate with them.
Understand that it is not possible to communicate in a mature adult manner with a disordered individual who's emotionally retarded.
THE SEVEN RULES OF DEALING WITH BULLIES
1. The Number One rule for dealing with this type of behaviour is: don't
respond and don't engage. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. It's a natural response to want
to defend yourself, and to put the person right.
However, never argue with a serial bully; it's not a mature adult discussion, but like dealing with a child or immature teenager;
whilst the serial bully may be an adult on the outside, on the inside they are like a child who's never grown up - and probably never will.
2. The second rule is to keep all abusive emails. Create a
new folder, perhaps called "Abuse", and move hate mail and flame mail into this
folder. You don't have to read it.
When the time comes to take action, this folder of hate
mail and flame mail is your evidence.
Bullies, especially cyberbullies, are obsessive
people and if their account is closed down you may start receiving mail from another
This can later be compared to the abusive emails you've already received to
identify the perpetrator. You'll find the same words, phrases and strategies occurring.
3. The third rule is to understand bullying. Read through
carefully, understand the profile
of the serial bully.
4. Rule four is get help. If you're a young person, this is
essential. Even mature experienced adults often cannot handle bullying and harassment by
themselves. Sometimes you are dealing with a severely disordered and dangerous individual.
5. Rule five is become alert to provocation. It could be
called "The Baiting Game". A provocative comment is made and those who respond
spontaneously in irritation (eg non-assertively) are then encouraged to engage in conflict
with those who respond without irritation (eg assertively).
The provoker watches, waits
and stirs the pot with the occasional additional provocation. What interests me is the
sense of gratification that a provoker gains from watching others indulge in destructive
interaction initiated by him- or herself.
In this context, gratification is a perverse
form of satisfaction akin to, but distinct from, pleasure.
6. The sixth rule is become an observer. Although you may be
the target of the cyberbully's anger, you can train yourself to act as an observer. This
takes you out of the firing line and enables you to study the perpetrator and collect
When people use bullying behaviours they project their own weaknesses, failings
and shortcomings on to others. In other words, they are telling you about themselves by
fabricating an accusation based on something they themselves have done wrong.
receive a flame mail or hate mail, train yourself to instinctively ask the question,
"What is this person revealing about themselves this time?"
7. The seventh rule is decide if you want to take action,
and if so, prepare carefully and strike hard. Sometimes refusing to
respond and engage will result in the cyberbully losing interest and going off to find
someone easier to torment.
Sometimes though, especially if there has been interaction in the
past, the cyberbully is so obsessed that s/he cannot and will not let go. You will have to
make that person let go, but only through swift, hard, legal action, and only when the
time is right. Don't deal with the abuser yourself, use a third party such as a
Bully OnLine is a gold mine of insight and
information on bullying which identifies the different types of harassment and bullying,
and exposes the principal perpetrator, the serial bully.
Teen becomes first jailed in U.K. for cyberbullying [CNet Aug 2009)
safe in cyberspace
Cyberspace: how to resolve conflict online
The Psychology of Cyberspace
Links to stalking sites