(Edited). Cyberbullying is started by 1 person enlisting at least 2 friends to attack/smear to instigate gangup. The most common causes are retaliation for rejection and/or to discredit the victim (to avoid taking responsibility for something the bully did). Mob-mentality/scapegoating causes gangups, but this article explains:: "When bullying occurs, people often place the blame on the shoulders of the victim. Most of the time, they falsely believe that if the victim of bullying were somehow different, then bullying wouldn’t happen. They might even ask the victim: "What did you do to cause it?" But bullying is never the target's fault. They do not need to change or be different in some way to avoid being bullied. Change is always the bully's responsibility."
In other words, otherwise nice people see a gangup forming, and assume mob rule makes the mob right - they assume there must be some logical reason everyone is jumping on - though that is rarely, if ever, true, and if anything, it's the reasons already mentioned above.
They will first will look for anything the victim might have done to bring the attack on themselves, typically basing it unfairly on the victim's current normal emotional reactions to being bullied - confusion, expression of sadness, fear, cursing, fighting back. This, of course, reverses the order of events, but nevertheless gets used as "proof" the victim deserved it.
The most fascinating phenomenon that occurs during cyberbullying situations is how many people will actually approach the victim with "advice" on how the victim should change their behavior, instead of the bullies :)
"Maybe if you didn't post personal information that could be twisted."
"Maybe if you hadn't freaked out"
"Maybe if you hadn't posted personal pictures."
"Maybe you love the attention and drama of it all."
"Maybe if you just ignored them."
"Maybe if you hadn't said what they were doing was creepy."
"Maybe if you'd shut up and just go away."
"Maybe if you'd just gone out with them when they asked."
"Maybe if you hadn't told them to stop it, knock it off, or F off ."
In this way, even if they don't help attack or cheer the bullies on, they are still helping the bullies out, because they're insulting/blaming the victim for their own attack, too.
Often, they genuinely believe they're helping, not even realizing they are helping the bullies.
Making it worse is the bully and friends will play the victim to justify themselves - even lying about the victim/projecting their own behavior on the victim.
Thus why it's hard to tell the difference - especially if the victim fights back.
(***This is why it's important to figure out who the real victim is
before taking action - because both sides will claim they're the victim.
However, this should be your first clue ...
(Unless there's a weapon involved) many against is one never a fair fight ;)
Additionally, here's an interesting aspect of a study done in 2013 about why people blame the victim in cyberbullying:
"Participants attributed more responsibility for the bullying incident to
the victim when the victim was presented as extroverted and very open
in revealing personal information. This diminished social support for
the victim. The effect was partially mediated by the victim's perceived
I found this fascinating - because in other words, the reasons for real-life bullying are often the exact opposite reasons for bullying online. In real-life, it's often those perceived as introverted and less attractive that are bullied, but online, it's typically the opposite.
That doesn't mean one type of bullying can't happen in the other setting, it certainly does - but it's interesting that one incidence is higher than the other online and vice versa, isn't it?
Lastly, I found this study/white paper the most fascinating - it explains to me something I've wondered for a long time - why people you know to be otherwise very moral and empathetic people can engage in cyberbullying gangups, cheer it on, or give unsolicited "advice" to the victim that they should change behavior instead of the bullies?
The study/academic white paper is based on the work of Albert Bandura, renowned Social Psychologist explaining why otherwise moral people help the bullies instead of the victim.
The simple answer is - they exhibited higher levels of "moral disengagement" than others.
"Moral disengagement" doesn't mean they don't have morals, or even lack empathy - it means that when an individual's actions aren't consistent with their self-concept and their own moral code, to ease that cognitive dissonance, they disengage from their morality and empathy, through justification, rather than take responsibility - even make themselves the victim.
In other words, people who exhibit higher levels of "moral disengagement" regularly suspend their morals and empathy through self-justification.
In the most basic terms, they were studying essentially 4 groups of people observed in group cyberbullying situations:
1) The bullies.
2) The cheerers-on/hop-ons/victim-blaming "advice-givers."
3) Those who did not get involved.
4) Those who stood up for the victim.
Though everyone has had at least one poor-coping moment of "moral disengagement" at some point in their lives, what they found on testing was that Groups 1 and 2 had higher/more frequent levels of moral disengagement, where as Groups 3 and 4 had lower/less frequent levels of moral disengagement.
Oversimplified, they have morals and empathy, but instead of adhering to their own stated moral code, they apply their morals and empathy based on subjective/random snap-assessments of what they perceive they "deserve."
So the first 2 groups have a moral code that allows for situations that justify group-cyberbullying, but the latter 2 groups have a moral code that never allows justification for group-cyberbullying.
Even more interestingly, those with higher levels of moral disengagement will continue to justify their bullying long after the event, rather than experience remorse for their actions.
It doesn't mean they can't experience remorse, they certainly can - it's just means that in certain situations, they will avoid feeling remorse - and they will often continue to blame the victim long afterwards, even bully them further - just to shut them up so they don't ever have to look at themselves and address the cognitive dissonance between their moral code and their actual behavior.
And you can see how being online makes it easier to "morally disengage," for those already so inclined ;)
I also read 4 studies showing (varying by study) up to 80% of cyberbullying is instigated by females (often more subtly) and that up to 80% of cyberbullying victims were female.
HOWEVER - Females were twice as likely as males to stand up for the cyberbullying victims, whether the victims were male or female - whereas males tended to "hop on" the side of (male or female) bullies more often than females.
*All 4 studies on gender and cyberbullying proved this to be true (though the percentages sometimes differed significantly).
Having been cyberbullied before myself, after reading these articles today, I have just now finished parking in draft every more personal post I've written except the change in email addresses (and some documentation of a chronic cyberstalker/cyberbullying/impersonation situation :)
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