This week I was the victim of Cyberbullying. I would like to share my experience with you and what I’ve learned. I was verbally assaulted on my Instagram account, which was not set to private. The multiple comments on various pictures were crude, rude, and degrading. My instinct, as is often the case with victims of bullying, was to not tell anyone. I deleted the comments and reported the perpetrator’s account as inappropriate.
Still, the comments stuck with me like a virus in stagnant water. I couldn’t get them out of my head. I knew they weren’t true but I couldn’t figure out why someone would say such things towards me. I couldn’t think of a single person who would have any good reason and yet I played the words over and over again in my head, searching for even an ounce of truth in them.
To my surprise, the next day, multiple friends from college who said they had been verbally attacked on Instagram by the same user contacted me. I shared my own story and we were able to follow the leads and ultimately, determine the culprit. In this case, it was an old acquaintance from college who was attacking people from our friend circle. None of us had seen or spoken to him since graduation. Finding out that I wasn’t the only victim made it easier for me to let go of the lies replaying in my head. I understood that this wasn’t a personal attack but a mass attack on behalf of a person who was clearly suffering more than any of his victims. After much thought, here is what I’ve learned from this not so pleasant experience:
1. Cyberbullying is real and it happens to adults too. I would like to think that I am too old to be a victim of Cyberbullying. After all, anonymously attacking another person online seems childish. But unfortunately, many people in this world become adults without ever growing up. Their maturity level could very well be the same as it was in their youthful school days, despite those around them having matured.
2. You should never be quiet about bullying. I wanted to sweep the whole thing under the rug despite the unresolved feelings that this left within me. Fortunately, I have friends, who are much braver than I, who reached out to me for support with their own experience and this gave me the courage to speak up that I had also been a victim. Talking it over with friends, and ultimately solving the case of anonymity, was what allowed me to move forward from the abuse.
3. What someone says about you has more to do with him or her than it does you. This guy had no reason to attack any of us the way that he did. His comments were vicious and ungrounded. In fact, the one commonality among us (his victims) was that we all have since moved away from our college town and pursued careers that followed our dreams. Surely in his eyes, we appear to be doing well for ourselves. Perhaps, this young man graduated with us hoping to do the same, and now, three years later, he’s filled with resentment that he hasn’t. His attacks were on us, but they were about him.
4. We must be careful what we choose to put on the Internet and we must be vigilant about our privacy settings. Despite the supposed anonymity that the Internet offers, you are setting yourself up as vulnerable to an attack when you do not have all of your privacy settings in place. Any disturbed person from any where in the world can decide to victimize you on the Internet at any moment. And this is the price we pay.
5. Words are things. Once spoken, they cannot be retrieved, only forgiven. Words are powerful and we must be careful in how we use them. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you. Be careful with your words. Your tongue is the most powerful weapon that you have.