Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bullies on the Interwebs

bul·ly[bool-ee]  noun, plural bul·lies, verb, bul·lied, bul·ly·ing, adjective, interjection

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
2.Archaic . a man hired to do violence.
3.Obsolete . a pimp; procurer.
4.Obsolete . good friend; good fellow.
5.Obsolete . sweetheart; darling.
Maybe I'm getting a bit old, and I know words have a tendency to change their meaning (check out the above - bully once meant positive things!!) but I'm struggling with the use of the word bully lately.
In my day, a bully was someone you were shit-scared of.  They'd beat you up for your lunch money, or make you do bad things to avoid a beating.  We had one at my school who certainly tried it, but as I was bigger than average, it never worked on me.  She even tried to intimidate my mother - and we're talking about a 12 year old girl here - that didn't work for her either.
Lately, on the social networking sites, especially facebook, it seems that a bully is someone who says something a little bit mean about you.  Or disagrees with you.  Or makes a blog post describing something you've done or said (with or without naming you).
Have we really become so thin-skinned that this kind of behaviour is bullying to us?  As a society, do we really expect everything and everyone to be all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?  Do we deal with a disagreement or being upset by something someone has said to us by whining "bully" at anyone who will listen?
Making a sock puppet with a similar name is not bullying.  It's taking the piss certainly, but how are you terrified of someone Gods only know where sitting at their computer screen making fun of you?
Making a parody page of your page is not bullying you.  It's taking the piss again.  If it increases your traffic, why is it such a problem?  And let's face it - that page is really funny.
Insulting people on a group and having them insult you back is not you being bullied, it's taking what you dished out.  If you don't like it, don't do it.
If someone calls you on plagiarism that has been posted on a page you admin, the smart thing to do is to remove it.  Bitching and moaning and whining doesn't fix the blatant law-breaking.  As the admin, it's your responsibility.  Starting a petition is even more childish by the way.  To then complain that the bullies are backing you into a corner and forcing you to restrict your page isn't fixing the problem either.  The problem is that you haven't removed an illegal post.  It's your own actions that have led to this.  No one is bullying you, my dear flake, you are doing wrong and consistently making things worse.
Seriously, how is a keyboard warrior a bully?  Are they sitting outside your house with a gun?  No they're sitting at their computer, probably miles away, and possibly even in another country - what can they really do to you that makes you so afraid of them?
Sadly though, the real bullying that there are many groups working against - the kids who are frequently assaulted in schools, or too afraid to go to school - this kind of thing is serious.  People who overuse and misuse a word belittle the real meaning behind it.  Bullying will become something that people just need to harden the fuck up about, and those in real danger from bullies (actual bullies, not just meanies on the net) will be ignored.  Is that something you really want on your conscience?  Because every time you describe someone being a bit mean to you as a bully, this is what you are creating.  


  1. And would you believe it, within minutes (like 10 minutes tops) of posting this, I'm called a bully for questioning something someone has said...

  2. I think there are many forms of bullying. Much of what you have said I would agree with. However there are occasions when a 'keyboard warrior' can be at you over and over and over again in such a way that can only be described as cruel and malicious - that it is a form of bullying.

    Someone being mean is just someone being mean. Having someone parody what you do is just that - a parody. But many people, many kids especially, are bullied online everyday. It's fine for people to say harden up. It's fine for people to say, just switch off. But why should someone have to limit their life because some mean spirited people feel the need to hide behind their monitors and spew vicious vitriolic insults at others in order to feel better about themselves.

    I read an article on the other day about a lady who was proud of being an internet troll and saw it as a form of art. Her goal is to upset people. She lays out bait and when people react, she pushes and pushes until they are really upset. She takes pleasure out of this. It's a form of sadism. And bullies do the same. They take pleasure out of hurting others.

    I agree that many people throw the title of bully around unnecessarily, whether mistakenly or in an attempt to divert focus from themselves and their inadequacies or wrongdoing. However I don't agree that the internet does not have bullies. Much as I'd love to dream that we could live in a world without bullies, there will always be those who derive pleasure out of hurting people, either physically or with words. Remember, words have power.

  3. Internet bullying is a problem. Laying bait for for example your local nazi then showing them up for what they are - isnt bullying - its satire - and the core of the bardic tradition - it is the essence of our culture and a birthright.

    BUT - the politically correct that will use the term Bullying - to mean anything they disagree with - basically deserve a smack in the teeth, and a hot cup of wake the fuck up and stop being a whiney little bitch.

    I do not ascribe the xtian platitudes of: Judge not lest ye be judged - I call it as I see it. Its called freedom of speech but also has the attached responsibility of actually making your comments in good taste. It means commenting on the people that have the means and where with all to answer in a sane and rational fashion . . .or just making fun of the crazy ones as they exist as an example to us all.

  4. I agree with you Aleq that there is a difference between the bullying and the satire, just as I agree with your comment on responsibility. I don't think the term bullying applies to that situation. I'm assuming that when you call a spade a spade you aren't doing so with malice in mind, you aren't intentionally trying to hurt someone with your comments, and thus I wouldn't term an exercise in free speech of that nature to be bullying.

    Unfortunately there are those who intend to hurt people and use the internet as a medium to do so. The harm they cause can, in some cases, be even greater than the schoolyard bullies who lie in wait to physically harm someone. Bruises heal after a few days or so, but emotional wounds can run deeper and last a heck of a lot longer.

    The definition at the beginning of this post states that a bully is 1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

    Weakness doesn't just describe physical characteristics, but can be attributed to the emotional strength of an individual. Funnily I find myself agreeing with Aleq again (hmm how often does that happen Debbie? :P) regarding those who have the 'means and where with all to answer'. Too bad the bullies of the world (internet and otherwise) don't share those sentiments.

    But as I said in my previous comment - the situations that Debbie has described are not what I would term bullying. Just that it does exist on the Interwebs.

  5. Fair enough :)

    My problem is that I see the word used so consistently for someone who disagrees with you and somehow a healthy debate is described as bullying... as happened within minutes of making this post.

    If you can't back up your argument, don't cry bully. Or play the victim, or whine about "what a great introduction to New Zealand Paganism this is". If you can't cope with a healthy discussion where people have differing views and differing paths, don't enter into it.

    Yes I'm aware there are serious internet bullies, but most of the time, in that situation, the victim has put themselves into a position to be bullied, and needs to take some responsibility for that too. Don't feed the troll.

  6. I'm sorry, Debbie, but that last paragraph just made me think of a similar argument I've heard before. "It's her fault. She was gagging for it. Can't you see how she's dressed."

  7. I look at the situation where some NZ Hiphop star was approached by three drunk 16 or 17 year old girls at 3am who then went down an alley with him. In what world would he NOT be expecting sex? It was IMHO more of a miscommunication than a sexual assault, but he was convicted.

    Or if you get into a stranger's car you take the risk (and therefore some responsibility) of things being a bit dangerous for us.

    I'm not saying that it's the fault of the 'victim' but they also need to take some responsibility for putting themselves in a situation where such things were possible in the first place.

  8. See I don't agree with that. Sure if there is no opposition from the victim (male or female) at the time of the act then I can understand a misunderstanding. However if there is something done or said by the victim to vitiate consent - either by words, or struggling and screaming - then there is no, you have to take responsibility for it. This is of course my view. I believe it is the right of all to say stop at any time and then the events must stop.

    But we are straying from your original topic - sorry to highjack it.