Who wants to be a bully?

     Today’s blog post is a topic post – not fashion related. But it’s a good read, I promise! 🙂

           Last Monday, my good friend and I went out to celebrate my RL birthday. We had fun getting manis and pedis, having lunch, and going shopping at the mall. Then I went with her to a workshop hosted by a chapter of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), and the topic was on anti-bullying with special focus on children. I won’t disclose what was said because people shared some very personal experiences. But the take home message was, “How do we solve this?”

            When I got home and logged into Second Life, I started to think about how people are bullied online, with a focus on SL and related social media. Cyber bullying is a major issue because people have been known to become depressed and commit suicide over it, and many people still don’t see an issue with it because “it’s just the Internet”. Regarding to SL, people have been known to change their online status, change avatars, and/or even leave SL because of bullying.

            Looking at http://www.erasebullying.ca/, I can see a lot of comparison to SL. For physical bullying, someone who has an agenda against someone could grief sims that the person owned, or rez objects that can impede an avatar’s movement. This has caused people to relocate from places that they call home. We see and hear of people having to relocate in real life as well, but at least in SL it’s a lot cheaper to do so. At the very least, someone can repeatedly bump into someone or block their walk path. If you don’t know how to derender someone or turn off particles, stuff like this can be pretty daunting.

Verbal bullying – people use words to intimidate people all of the time. According to outofthefog.net, invalidation is the creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless. This is huge – think about it. We all have belief systems, activities that we like to participate in, and character strengths and weaknesses. When someone starts chipping away at what makes us “us”, it can weaken us. If it’s done enough, it can even break us.

Social and Emotional bullying – I think I see this the most. People who are in socially appointed positions of power dictate to the community who should be liked, and who should not. It is amazing to me how two people can say the same thing, and one is praised whereas the other is condemned, simply because of their status. And it’s sad when you see people who call themselves advocates for preventing bullying allow their friends to do it. That doesn’t seem much of an advocate to me. If you are not the one to show your friend, then who will? Let’s look at this popular saying here:

“If one man calls you a donkey, ignore him. If two men call you a donkey, think about it. If three men call you a donkey, buy a saddle.”

            Sure, but suppose if the 3 men that are calling you a donkey are drunken men at a bar…would you believe them then? Or, do these men have something to gain by calling you a donkey, or something to lose if they don’t? Keep that in mind next time you are in a conversation and people gang up on you.

            If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you focus on the actual topic at hand. People love to use straw man hat arguments to try to deter from their main viewpoint, especially when they see their argument is not going anywhere. And ignore the “friends” that jump in. Unlike real life physical fights, you don’t have to fight them, too. If the point was really important, then let the main aggressor make the point. When bullies see that you aren’t feeding into their drama, the conversation will die down quickly. Chances are, they can’t perform without a show, and if you don’t give it to them, people will lose interest as the bully loses momentum.

Cyber bullying – I think cyber bullying for children is the worst thing ever. Things that are said or posted can stay online indefinitely through social media. What used to blow over in a matter of days could last for weeks because people can comment. Groups of people can gang up on a person and since all of us to some degree want to be accepted by our peers, it can hurt.

            I always believe in the truth setting you free when it comes to chat logs, because then you have proof of what people have said and can see both sides objectively. Because of this, I don’t say things that I wouldn’t mind the other person knowing. I am not really a fan of Linden Lab’s policy of not showing logs to others within SL (but you can outside of SL). I understand that LL doesn’t want to be liable for what others say, especially in cases of slander. However I am not dishonest, and as far as I know, my friends aren’t dishonest. So when I see people hiding behind TOS (and to me it is hiding because you should be a man/woman of your word no matter what), I just shake my head. When people tell me that they will show someone what I have said, I tell them please do so, and show them the entire transcript so they can see how they have made themselves look foolish. As far as I know, no one has ever done that after I have said that to them. I feel if you have nothing to hide, then it shouldn’t ruffle your feathers too much if people show what you have said to others. You can be upset about the principle of the matter, but not what you actually have said if what was shown was the truth.

 Are all bullies victims?

            The short answer is yes. If you are generally and genuinely happy, you not only view situations differently, but you respond differently as well, even under distress. However, when When you are troubled your perception is altered, and you may become sensitive to certain situations or topics. When people are driven to dominate others through intimidation, it is because of the anger or feeling of helplessness towards the troubling issue(s). This is their way of gaining control of the situation, and many times they feel like they have solved their issue. Some don’t even realize that they have become a bully, and in some cases, a bully for whatever causes that they are fighting.

            I think the key is to figure out what’s driving bullies to act this way towards you (or others) in a given situation, and despite the fact that they may be attacking you, try not to make it about you. This is not saying that you are selfish for taking offence while being verbally assaulted, but if you found out that behind the computer, your aggressor is going through a divorce, is in an abusive relationship or lives in a community that generally does not accept him or her for whatever reason, it puts things in perspective. Suddenly these bullies don’t seem as threatening, and the compassionate side can come out. Sometimes you can turn a bully into a friend, and other times you may just have to walk away because the person has too many issues that they need to work out.

            So, the original question that was brought up in the meeting and my question now: How do we solve this? Or at least how do we address this? Do we know whether or not someone is a bully? Are we bullies? How do we address bullies in a situation when they are targeting a friend? How about a stranger? What happens when the bully is one of your friends – can we be objective, or are we subjective? Do you care more about preserving the friendship, or do you want to do what’s right? When the bullies target us, how do we handle it? How do we handle a group of people jumping in with the bullies and laughing and agreeing with their hurtful words? What do our actions say about us as a society and as individuals?

             This article from safewise.com has a good set of questions to ask yourself to see do you have bullying tendencies: http://www.safewise.com/blog/know-youre-bully/
Focusing on what #8 says:

  1. Don’t say anything in writing you wouldn’t say in person.
  2. Remember tone and intention are often hidden and misinterpreted in text form.
  3. Don’t ever post someone else’s words or images without his or her expressed permission. The Internet is a permanent place.

            I will say that I disagree with their #2. I see people say all of the time that it’s hard to interpret tone and intention in text form. That is a lie. Why? Because we have all taken English (or other native language) and literature classes in school, and especially in upper levels all we do in a given semester is to interpret what the author meant by certain prose and poetry. When we write, be it for a class or to friends on social media, we should always be aware of the tone that we use. However, it is not uncommon for people’s experiences to color their perception. So what do we do in that case? Do we show sensitivity towards those people? How much should we allow before we feel compromised? If the person insists on seeing our words as harmful when we know they were not (and they were not), how do we handle it?

            This is a lot to think about, and I admit when I started writing this, I did not realize how long this would be. I believe that when we can feel something, we can then begin to heal. It’s when you become so numb to the aggression or been the aggressor for so long that you don’t know that you are one is when you have a rough road ahead.