I was contacted recently by Laura Pearson of Edutude.net. She wanted to write an article for my blog regarding cyberbullying. I’ve been looking at this issue for several years and wanted to hear more. I noticed the article had several great resources for anyone wanting to learn more about bullying and it’s 21st century variant cyberbullying. I was once harassed online by an actor that I worked with many years ago. It was disturbing even though I doubt anyone saw the absurd comments. I can only imagine what it’s like for teenagers who are bullied publicly when those who see it share it within the victim’s own social community, particularly when that community is made up of youths who are native enough to believe the rumors. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t have to imagine it because I was bullied only five or six years ago. The only difference is that the slander was conducted in person at the workplace. As an adult, I was bullied at work and the problem became pretty severe. I ended up getting fired because the bullying made me popular with everyone. Firing me was easier than replacing all the bullies and those who supported the bullies. I can say from experience, that once and influencer labels you as “the other”, everyone else follows suit; Monkey see, Monkey do.
“I need to call an ambulance….where’s my phone?….I don’t know…..where am I?…I’m next to that one school on that one road……What’s the name of the road?…..I know this road…..why can’t I remember the name?……Fuck! What the hell is happening to me!?”, I wondered as my entire body started to seize…
In defense of some of the younger, less rational “adults”, they were new to the organization and probably didn’t realize what was going on because, of the three main bullies, two of them were very adept at manipulating relationships in the same way that you see contestants on reality TV shows manipulating each other, using different tactics in order to create biases against others. The do this to create a “team” that will gang up on and eliminate the person that is their strongest competitor (there’s a lot of lying and deception involved). In my case, these bullies leveraged the naiveté of interns and other young adults to work their deception. The third bully at the corporation was the operations manager and his main device used for bullying was the micro-insult in public (Laura’s article discusses some of the signs of bullying such as micro-assaults, micro-insults, and micro-invalidations). Then there were situations where loyal employees at the company (loyal to the people with power, i.e. the operations director), were enlisted to set me up for failure. This happened several times, resulting in a justification for my termination. If this was not enough, I was loudly accosted, physically threatened, and cornered in my small closet sized workspace by three camera operators. In spite of the fact that there were many witnesses to this, the operations managers swept it under the rug.
After termination, I was rehired by a subcontractor that operated in a different space. But this was not enough to prevent the effects of anxiety related physical health problems that had begun as a result of the work conflicts. Just a few days after my termination, I was driving down a remote road in south Austin when my body started to tingle. My breathing was irregular and my joints started to lose mobility. I had never had an anxiety attack before so I freaked out and swerved the car over to the side of the road, practically falling out of the car after fumbling to open the door. I crawled a few feet from the car and on my hands and knees tried desperately to think….”I need to call an ambulance….where’s my phone?….I don’t know…..where am I?…I’m next to that one school on that one road……What’s the name of the road?…..I know this road…..why can’t I remember the name?……Fuck! What the hell is happening to me!?”, I wondered as my entire body started to seize up. Fortunately for me, while remote, the section of road was next to a middle school and since it was daytime, people were driving by. They pulled over as a passing school coach saw me and ran over. They called the ambulance. It turns out that hyperventilation had caused Carbon Dioxide build up in my blood. The breathing problems became a daily affliction. The problem was that stress had caused me to subconsciously change my breathing rate which, under normal circumstances, is automatically controlled by the brain. My breathing rate was very low, so low that some nights, as I was falling asleep, I would stop breathing altogether. I would then wake up gasping for air, feeling suffocated.
Within a year, one of the bullies (the one that lead the charge towards emotional harassment & cornering me in my workspace), was fired from the previous company and came to work for the same subcontractor that had rehired me. I was worried about this situation but it was the only employment option at the time and the employer was aware of the previous assault. One day the conflict sparked back up because the bully did not like the way I was managing a process (I was properly doing my job). This time he physically assaulted me. I was under a lot of stress during the attack and my anxiety level went through the roof, but since getting run off the road by the first anxiety attack, I’d gotten therapy and done some research on how to handle the breathing problems that were still a regular affliction. With the daily practice of an assortment of meditation breathing exercises and regular physical exercise including running on a treadmill twice a week, my breathing had stabilized (it would take 3 to 4 years to get to the point where I would no longer need the meditation exercises, although I still run twice a week). Fortunately, I was now stronger, able to stand my ground and I kept my wits about me while under attack. We jawed at each other for ten or twenty seconds and then he backed off. I then barked my defense at him and told him that he had no right to decide what was appropriate methods for managing the job since he’s not my supervisor. He yelled “whatever dude, whooooooooooo!”, left the work area, got in his car and drove off; it was pretty gangster. This time I filed a police report on the incident and a complaint with the city prosecutors office. The prosecutor’s office was difficult because they would not accept the complaint without the address of the violent offender. I had to pay a private investigator to get that information. If I had been attacked by an unknown assailant, the prosecutors would have rejected my complaint. The prosecutor decided to file charges but the defendant skipped out on the hearing date. A new hearing date was set but the defendant had a lawyer who talked the prosecutors out of it some how. They dropped the charges. Apparently it’s now legal to assault people in Austin, Texas thanks to the prosecutor’s office assisting violent offenders (Hows that, for a world class city). Thank God I’ve moved on and my current work environment is much more professional than the last two.
That’s my bully story. Bullying is an enigmatic social problem and I thank Laura for writing this article with all these great links to information for parents regarding teens and cyberbullying. Hopefully, soon we’ll have better laws against this sort of thing, but in the meantime, education is a good defense. Currently, a good defense is the best offense in my neck of the woods. After reading Laura’s article, leave comments if you have a story about a situation where you’ve been bullied.
A Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying
It’s a fear every parent has. Your child comes home from school hiccuping with sobs after getting pushed around in the bathroom, mocked in the hallways or shoved in the cafeteria. Bullying is a sad reality that we all have faced, but this generation has a whole new battlefield — the Internet.
Cyberbullying is a kind of youth violence that can damage a young person’s sense of self-worth by using technology, like cell phones, social media and the Internet, to harass another person.
It’s not uncommon for kids and teens to be a little secretive with parents, especially when bullying is involved. Your youth or teen won’t come home with a black eye, so it’s easy to miss the cyberbullying signs. However, studies show that 1 in 3 youth are cyberbullied, with cellphones being the most common method.
Cyberbullying is serious; it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. As a parent, how do you handle cyberbullying when during your childhood the Internet was only alive in science fiction movies? How can you protect your child from bullies in school and online?
First, know what cyberbullying looks like so you can monitor your child’s technology. Cyberbullying can be:
- Sending hateful or harassing texts, private messages or emails
- Spreading rumors on social media or through text messages
- Posting hurtful comments on social media sites, smartphone social apps or web pages
- Breaking into a person’s account and pretending to be them to send damaging messages to others
- Impersonating someone else online to hurt another person
- Taking insulting pictures of a person and sharing them with others
- “Sexting,” or sharing sexually explicit pictures or messages about a person
As a parent, you’ll need to talk openly with your child so you can find a balance between monitoring their technology to see the signs of abuse and respecting their privacy. When youth and teens face bullying, they can become withdrawn, and even turn to substances like drugs or alcohol for comfort.
Youth and teens often attack each other through microaggressions, subtle jabs that have a massive and dangerous impact on our physical, mental and emotional health. You can see cyberbullying occurring through:
- Microassaults: An intentional, often public, put-down of another person because of their ethnicity, gender, orientation or other factor. They are often not explicitly directed at a specific person, but told about some of their qualities. For example, if someone is cyberbullying an African American teen, they might text them racist jokes or post racist photos to their social media accounts.
- Microinsults: Insulting a person with insensitive comments that passive aggressively mock them and are often hidden in backhanded compliments. For instance, someone cyberbullying an overweight teen might comment publically on a social media photo that a particular outfit makes them look thin for their size.
- Microinvalidations: Negating or invalidating someone’s feelings, experiences and perspectives. In cyberbullying, for example, a white teen could tell an African American teen to not be so sensitive about race, or make comments like “But YOU weren’t a slave.”
One major way to discourage laws against cyberbullying and help youth and teen work through the emotional trauma of these issues is to encourage them to speak up. If your teen knows someone is being bullied, encourage them to report it to their principal or guidance counselor. If they see someone being bullied, post nice, positive comments to their social media pages. Make a rule that you’re monitoring your child’s technology to see not only if they’re being bullies, but also if they are bullying others. Finally, if your child is being cyberbullies, encourage them to take screenshots and save the messages to report the bully to the authorities. Though laws against cyberbullying still have a long way to go, reporting these issues can help everyone get the help they need.
Author: Laura Pearson (Edutude.net)