Bullies are everywhere.
Sadly, they seem to be a constant fixture in any social group. It does not matter what age we are, what job we have, where we went to school, what we own, or what we know. If we participate in any social group, we are bound to meet some bullies.
Not all bullies are equal. Some are more vicious and effective than others.
Not all social groups are equal. Some attract more bullies than others.
The workplace, for example, is a frequent bully hangout. This is because bully strategies are often encouraged and rewarded in the workplace.
Online forums are also a breeding ground for bullies because of the same reasons.
What is a Forum Bully?
Bullying is about power and dominance. In online forums, bullies use words to intimidate, isolate, and degrade their victims.
Bullies are generally easy to pick out. Here are some common forum bully traits –
- Bullies use unsubstantiated personal attacks to denigrate their victims. Often, they make fun of their victim’s intelligence, get everyone to laugh at him, and in doing so isolates and degrades their target. In this way, their victim is neutralized, and serves as a strong reminder to everyone of the bully’s power. Bullies rule through fear.
- Bullies usually attack weak or new targets. The best way to get yourself into a bully’s little black book of horrors is to appear weak, uncertain, and emotionally vulnerable. New members to a social group are also a bully’s favorite because they are new, unproven, and do not yet have a support system. They are alone – and therefore easier to hunt-down and kill.
- Bullies hate being challenged and they hate losing. Another quick way to get yourself into the black book of horrors is to publicly challenge a bully, especially a head bully. A bully’s power rests in his ability to control others through fear. If they are challenged and they lose, it will significantly erode their power. As a result, they will use excessive force to defeat public challenges.
- Bullies usually hunt in packs. There is safety and strength in numbers. As we said before, bullies hate losing, so they try to go for a sure kill.
- Bullies are afraid of strength. If they spot strong new members to the community, they will first try to recruit them. If that fails, they will usually leave them alone. Strong targets are risky and usually end up costing the bully more than he gains.
- Bullies are in-love with themselves. They have little to no empathy, and are only interested in their own activities, and their own power. A bully may help others who are in his gang, or help other respected members of the community, but only for his own advancement and glory.
Why Be a Forum Bully?
Bullying is popular in online forums, and other online social groups because –
- The internet is largely anonymous. Studies show that when we are anonymous, we feel less inhibited. For example, when we wear a costume and cover up our face with a mask, we feel more free to take risks. The internet allows us all to easily put on a mask and outfit. Being anonymous creates more freedoms and removes judgement based on physical appearance, race, income, and more. However, it also allows us to escape responsibility for our actions, including verbal abuse and bully behavior. Many forum bullies use the internet as a release mechanism for their real-world anger or frustration. Since they cannot shout at their boss, co-workers, or neighbors without real-world consequences, they take their frustrations out in an anonymous online forum, where there are no real consequences for their anti-social behavior.
- Negative interactions get more attention. Human nature is such that we respond more quickly and more strongly to negative comments. In this way, forum bullies are the ones that get the most attention and the most followers. This online attention positively reinforces the bullying behavior, which causes more bullying to occur. Today, many people are trying to make money online through advertising. Getting forum attention generates more buzz, this gets them more traffic, which translates into more money.
How to Fight Forum Bullies
Our instinct is to fight fire with fire, to fight the negative by returning it in kind. However, that is a losing battle.
One of the key reinforcers for the forum bully is attention.
It does not matter to him whether it is negative or positive attention as long as it is attention. By responding, we are giving the bully what he wants. In addition, by giving an emotional, negative response, we are letting the bully know that he has gotten under our skin.
1. Do not let forum bullies affect you.
Forum bullies are the scum of the Earth and they deserve nothing from us – not our attention, not our time, and certainly not our emotional well-being. One of the best ways to deal with online bullies is to hit the delete button. If we cannot delete their comment in fact, then simply delete it from our consciousness and move on.
Forum bullies are after attention so they may try to egg you on by further calling you names, calling you a coward, and raging on in a negative fashion. They will try to bring you down to their own sad level of existence.
Delete, ignore, and a bully will shout himself out, like a young child throwing a tantrum. Hopefully, he will learn from this experience and find more productive activities with which to fill his time. Otherwise, he will simply continue to fritter his time away in negative pursuits, which will hurt him a lot more than it hurts us.
2. Report bullies to the forum administration.
The best way to create a healthy social environment is to report bullying behavior to the administration. In this way, the bullying is quickly stopped, and we can all get back to productive and constructive discussions, that actually involve the exchange of information.
We want to stop bullying and pointless personal attacks because it will quickly ruin a perfectly good online community. If the community forum gets taken up with mostly tit-for-tat type shouting, nobody in their right mind would want to visit, much less participate.
Many people act as if reporting bullying behavior is somehow cowardly, or is a suppression of free-speech. That is not the case at all. Bullying should be stopped because it is bad for the health of a community, and it clogs up the information channels with useless, pointless, and negative bickering. Bullying and personal attacks are not free-speech, rather it is verbal abuse. If we care about the community, we should all do our part to stop forum bullying.
We are often very affected by our surrounding social environment. The more bullying there is, the more bullying it will attract. If we create an environment that is unfriendly to bullying, then these online thugs will go somewhere else to spread their particular form of decay and rot.
3. Fight fire with water.
It is a big waste of time to interact with forum bullies. However, if we feel compelled to converse with our friendly online thug, then the only way to fight negative verbal attacks is by dispelling it with humor and positive energy. Rehabilitating a forum bully will take a lot of patience and a lot of positive energy. There is little point to it unless we are applying for Sainthood.
Are You a Forum Bully?
Most of us do not think of ourselves as bullies. We are all heroes in our own minds, and a bully is no exception. In fact, many bullies see themselves as a fearless fighter for God, Country, and the path to Righteousness. The truth is, there is a forum bully in every one of us.
- Sometimes we get angry, and we lash back at others.
- Sometimes we get hurt, and we lash back at others.
- Sometimes we are busy, and do not realize that we have said something hurtful or negative.
The key though is to recognize those negative actions and to take steps to correct them. When we commit negative acts and bullying behavior, we not only hurt others, but actually end up hurting ourselves most.
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.—Matthew 5:38–42, NIV
Today, many of us see nonresistance or nonviolence as a weakness. After all, if we turn the other cheek, we may just keep getting slapped. Therefore, we are encouraged to slap back and show strength. Bullies try to turn everyone into their likeness by calling us cowards for not resorting to verbal violence.
I used to think that “turning the other cheek” was a weakness. After all, why should I spare pain to a bully when he seems to have no concern for me or others. It was not until later that I realized that “cheek turning” is not really for the bully, but for me.
Negative energy infects, and bullies carry negative energy like plague ridden fleas. The way to combat this particular plague is not by spreading more negative energy. Rather, we want to dispel the negativity with positive energy or just ignore the flea and use plenty of repellent.