Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Cyber-bullies, cyber-stalkers, trolls and the individual social networker

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 10, 2010

I recently posted two notes on the antisocial side of social networking and social media with:

Trolls and other antisocial, disruptive and divisive social networkers – Part 1 and
Trolls and other antisocial, disruptive and divisive social networkers – Part 2

and I wanted to pick up on a point I raised in the first of them that is not necessarily true. I was focusing in these postings on the impact of social networking and its dark side on businesses and organizations and in the course of that, and by comparison I made a statement that many business people would at least start out viewing as true.

“We generally network and connect online with people who we are in some sense compatible with, at least to the level of having at least some points of shared interest or concern. And we stop social networking with people who we see as violating our understanding of proper behavior. In this and for individual networkers, bad behavior online is a rapidly self-correcting problem.”

This may usually be true and for most of us, and most of the time but even individuals can come to see themselves as fixed targets in the social networking and social media arenas. This is where cyber-bullies and cyber-stalkers enter the picture, and the trolls I discussed in Part 1 of the above set of postings.

Anonymity and the easy potential for hiding behind it make many things possible, and that includes many bad things as well as good. And one of the biggest problems in this is that institutions that often hold at least a part of the answer for controlling and limiting these problems often would prefer to step aside and deny any role or obligation here.

Schools that have students who are being bullied online or even stalked generally resist getting involved as a part of the solution to this problem and the same applies where evidence would suggest that one of their students may be a cyber-bully or stalker. Online service providers do not always make resolving this easier, but they are in general coming to see potential risk in their not taking action so this front is improving at least a little. Local police and law enforcement agencies tend to be unprepared, lacking both manpower and expertise necessary to play anything like a constructive role – unless given help and from sources they can turn to that are consistent with their own due diligence and due process requirements.

This has become a significant problem for many communities and it is one that will simply get worse unless and until communities and online communities, and online service providers actively and proactively get involved.

Education of potential cyber-bullies and stalkers, and of social networkers and social media participants in general is one place where this has to start. Collectively that means everyone. Good and appropriate online behavior has to be a basic part of learning how to function in society as a good citizen. And when that fails as it always will for at least some, it is important that problems be identified early when they are still small and little harm has been done. That I add is not always going to happen either and even with the best of intentions and the most careful effort. Problem recognition and remediation will always be needed too.

I will write a third part of the series I cited above and that will continue my focus, for that series at least, on social networking, social media and businesses. But I write and acknowledge that the problems I write of there apply to the individual and at least as fully as they do to any business, and individuals can feel quite cut off and alone in this, and be that much more victimized as a result.

I end this with a final thought. Cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, troll behavior and their sad cousins are and will remain everyone’s problem – a problem truly for all of us and not just those who seem to have been singled out. This is one we all have to approach as if we were at least potentially the next direct victim, us or members of our families. This one is everyone’s business.


3 Responses

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  1. Judge Tom said, on December 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.

    Endorsed by Dr. Phil [“Bullied to Death”], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities.

    Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, texts, IM messages, Facebook & YouTube posts and more. TCI promotes education & awareness of consequences so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”

    Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on [publisher] or on [a free website for & about teens and the laws that affect them].

    Respectfully, -Judge Tom.

  2. Timothy Platt said, on December 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Thank you Judge Tom, for your helpful comment to my blog posting,

    I agree with you completely that simply lecturing at people does not usually work all that effectively and I add that this applies to adults as much as it does to teenagers. I will also add that most teenagers have effective built-in hypocrisy meters and they do know when people lecturing at them are saying one thing but doing something else. Here this would mean proclaiming the virtues of one set of careful online networking and social media practice but either following a different set themselves, or never using social media at all.

    Much of my focus in how I would address this is in listening and understanding so when something like cyber bullying is developing that is identified and responded to quickly. I said in my posting that third parties who should at least in principle be acting responsibly here do not always do so. That simply means that parents and others who may in fact not be online and using social media need to be willing to get involved to identify and help resolve problems. And you are right that simply lecturing would not be very productive here.

    This is a serious problem and it is one that can fester unnoticed. I add that the potential for being victimized by this does not end simply because someone reaches 20 and passes beyond their teen years. Thanks for sharing a resource for addressing this problem, and for pointing out that more active and two way responses with listening too, are needed to effectively deal with this problem.


  3. Lisa Danzer said, on December 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Excellent article to be applied in every day life either online or in every day life. When people see bullying or cyberbullying and do nothing about it the problem will not go away but maybe affect your family or friend the next time. It may seem to be put to rest for the moment but the problem will occur again and again and who knows what those results will be the next time. Folks have to stand up for what is right when they see it. Corruption is destruction regardless of age etc.

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