Are You A Bully?
Recently I was accused of being a bully, for sharing one opinion about a blog post. It’s a very upsetting thing to be accused of, and if you follow me on Snapchat (happymumnz) you will have seen me talking about this.
It made me realise that the word “Bully” gets thrown around a lot, for whatever reason, and it was time for me to do some investigating.
Perhaps I was being a bully without realising it. Perhaps I was in the wrong; heaven forbid – perhaps I was being the bad guy.
So let’s take a step back and look at the definition:
Definition of bully (taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
1a : a blustering, browbeating person; especially : one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable tormented by the neighborhood bullyb : pimp
2: a hired ruffian
3archaica : sweetheartb : a fine chap
Cyberbullying is the use of cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate someone.
Well I guess I could be a hired ruffian … and I’m definitely a fine chap LOLOL. But in all seriousness … my one opinion on a blog post, I personally don’t think constitutes as bullying.
I was bullied when I was in school – relentlessly. Every week, sometimes every day. However, my one-off opinion doesn’t mean I am a bully.
I think my experience is one that a lot of people online experience.
You offer an opinion, and suddenly you are accused of being a bully. I’ve actually seen it way too many times.
People assume that if you don’t agree with someone, you must be a bully. Or because you back up your opinion with another opinion, that that’s bullying too.
No that’s actually just having an opinion.
Obviously words do matter. When you’re in an online debate it CAN turn into someone bullying someone else: going after them every time they say something. Using words in a nasty way.
Even if you’re not in an online debate, any forum can contain people who actively seek out others and put them down all the time. That’s bullying.
Online bullying does exist.
However, the lines do get blurred, and I’m here to tell you that although I don’t have all of the answers, we need to be careful when using the term “bully”.
Because it is quite an accusation, and when in the wrong hands can bring a lot of hurt and pain.
If you think you’re being bullied online, try approaching the person to chat to them. If that doesn’t work, go through a mediator or mutual friend.
Sometimes people simply don’t want to know about it, and don’t care. They don’t care what they’re doing or if they’re hurting you – because it’s online.
In that instance, you will need to distance yourself from them. Leave the forum, block them online.
Don’t give them any power.
If the bullying continues in other ways, then you may need to take it offline and chat to someone not on the internet. In some instances the proper authorities need to be brought in.
When it comes to our children, we need to teach them new skills in life. Because not only do they deal with bullying in real life, but they’ll also experience it online.
It pays to start thinking about the fact that there is a difference between having an opinion, and bullying.
Being in a debate online doesn’t mean you’re a bully (unless you take it to the extreme of course).
We need to teach our children to learn that everyone has different opinions in life and it’s ok if someone doesn’t agree with us. That you can live in a world where we do and think different things, and still like each other.
But we also need to teach them to be kind with their words. That they don’t need to put someone else down to make themselves feel better.
Please think carefully before using the word “bully” though – it is an incredible accusation and causes a lot of hurt, especially if the person is in fact not being a bully.
Chatting together as adults is preferable, but we all know that’s not always possible.
Having a difference of opinions online, doesn’t mean someone is a bully. Not liking someone does not mean that person is a bully … but following someone around online, making malicious and hurtful comments continuously IS being a bully.
Write carefully, read carefully, if necessary take a step back before commenting. And WHERE POSSIBLE have an adult conversation to resolve any differences.
Have you been bullied online? Have you accused someone of bullying?
Edited to add: I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes with my words in the past, which is how I’ve learned what I know today. I would never intentionally go out of my way to bully someone or bring them down.