Cyberbullying on the Internet Cyber bullies, cyber bullying, flame mail, hate mail
Constant nit-picking criticism, humiliation, taunts, threats, intimidation? Read this
The Internet provides the perfect forum for cyberbullies, individuals whose aim is to gain gratification from the distress caused by provoking and tormenting others. The anonymity, ease of provocation, and almost infinite source of targets means the Internet is full of predators from pedophiles targeting children to serial bullies targeting ... anybody.
Cyberbullies get a perverse sense of satisfaction (called gratification) from sending people flame mail and hate mail. Flame mail is an email whose contents are designed to inflame and enrage. Hate mail is hatred (including prejudice, racism, sexism etc) in an email.
Serial bullies, whose behaviour profile you'll find in full at Bully OnLine, harbour a lot of internal aggression which they direct at others. This may include projection, false criticism and patronising sarcasm whilst contributing nothing of any value. It may also include a common tactic of "a number of people have emailed me backchannel to agree with me". This is standard bully-speak which I've experienced on several forums. In every case it's a fabrication or a distortion - usually the former. It's also a variant of the serial bully head teacher who says "a number of parents have complained to me about you...". When challenged, the identity of the alleged complainants can't be disclosed because it's "confidential". The purpose of this tactic is to wind people up. Don't be fooled into believing it has any validity - it doesn't.
People who bully are adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool negative information about them. The method of creating conflict is provocation which bullies delight in because they know they can always coerce at least one person to respond in a manner which can then be distorted and used to further flame and inflame people. And so it goes on. The bully then sits back and gains gratification from seeing others engage in destructive behaviour towards each other.
Many serial bullies are also serial attention-seekers. More than anything else they want attention. It doesn't matter what type of attention they get, positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them attention. It's like a 2-year-old child throwing a tantrum to get attention from a parent. The best way to treat bullies is to refuse to respond and to refuse to engage them - which they really hate. In other words, do not reply to their postings, and on forums carry on posting without reference to their postings as if they didn't exist. In other words, treat nobodies as nobodies.
The anger of a serial bully is especially apparent when they come across someone who can see through them to espy the weak, inadequate, immature, dysfunctional aggressive individual behind the mask. For instance, when serial bullies see themselves described at workbully/serial.htm they usually send me an abusive email.
If you receive abusive emails or flame mails or hate mail, you can forward it to abuse@isp where "isp" is the service provider the abuser is using, eg "aol.com" or "yahoo.com". Although Internet service providers may not act on every complaint, the more complaints they receive about a particular individual (with examples of abusive email) the more likely they are to close down the person's account.
The objectives of bullies are Power, Control, Domination, Subjugation. They get a kick out of seeing you react. It doesn't matter how you react, the fact they've successful provoked a reaction is, to the bully, a sign that their attempt at control have been successful. After that, it's a question of wearing you down. The more your try to explain, negotiate, conciliate, etc the more gratification they obtain from your increasingly desperate attempts to communicate with them. Understand that it is not possible to communicate in a mature adult manner with a disordered individual who's emotionally retarded.
The Number One rule for dealing with this type of behaviour is: don't respond, don't interact and don't engage. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. It's a natural response to want to defend yourself, and to put the person right. However, never argue with a serial bully; it's not a mature adult discussion, but like dealing with a child or immature teenager; whilst the serial bully may be an adult on the outside, on the inside they are like a child who's never grown up - and probably never will. Serial bullies and harassers often have disordered thinking patterns and do not share the same thoughts or values as you.
The second rule is to keep all abusive emails. Create a new folder, perhaps called "Abuse", and move hate mail and flame mail into this folder. You don't have to read it. When the time comes to take action, this folder of hate mail and flame mail is your evidence. Bullies, especially cyberbullies, are obsessive people and if their account is closed down you may start receiving mail from another address. This can later be compared to the abusive emails you've already received to identify the perpetrator. You'll find the same words, phrases and strategies occurring.
The third rule is to understand bullying. Read through Bully OnLine carefully, understand the profile of the serial bully. Recognise that you are not dealing with a person who has the same mindset as yourself. Bullying, and especially cyberbullying, has links with stalking - see related/stalking.htm for links to stalking sites.
Rule four is get help. If you're a young person, this is essential. Even mature experienced adults often cannot handle bullying and harassment by themselves. Sometimes you are dealing with a severely disordered and dangerous individual.
Rule five is become alert to provocation. It could be called "The Baiting Game". A provocative comment is made and those who respond spontaneously in irritation (eg non-assertively) are then encouraged to engage in conflict with those who respond without irritation (eg assertively). The provoker watches, waits and stirs the pot with the occasional additional provocation. What interests me is the sense of gratification that a provoker gains from watching others indulge in destructive interaction initiated by him- or herself. In this context, gratification is a perverse form of satisfaction akin to, but distinct from, pleasure.
The sixth rule is become an observer. Although you may be the target of the cyberbully's anger, you can train yourself to act as an observer. This takes you out of the firing line and enables you to study the perpetrator and collect evidence. When people use bullying behaviours they project their own weaknesses, failings and shortcomings on to others. In other words, they are telling you about themselves by fabricating an accusation based on something they themselves have done wrong. Whenever you receive a flame mail or hate mail, train yourself to instinctively ask the question, "What is this person revealing about themselves this time?"
The seventh rule is decide if you want to take action, and if so, prepare carefully and strike hard. Sometimes refusing to respond and engage will result in the cyberbully losing interest and going off to find someone easier to torment. Sometimes though, especially if there has been interaction in the past, the cyberbully is so obsessed that s/he cannot and will not let go. You will have to make that person let go, but only through swift, hard, legal action, and only when the time is right. Don't deal with the abuser yourself (this encourages bullies and stalkers), use a third party such as a solicitor.
Finally a reminder - never try to mediate, negotiate, conciliate or otherwise deal with a bully or stalker yourself. Always remember Rule #1: don't respond, don't interact and don't engage.
My page on stalking which includes a behaviour profile of the Internet stalker may prove interesting.
Bully OnLine is a gold mine of insight and information on bullying which identifies the different types of harassment and bullying, and exposes the principal perpetrator, the serial bully. Everyone, whether they're receiving flame mails or hate mail or not, knows at least one person in their life with the profile of the serial bully. Click here to see ...who does this describe in your life?
Have a look through this web site to recognise the bullies and bullying in your life ... start with Am I being bullied? then move on to What is bullying? To find out what you can do about bullying, click Action to tackle bullying. Have a look at the profile of the serial bully which is common to sociopathic managers, harassers, stalkers, rapists, violent partners, abusers, paedophiles, even serial killers of the organised kind.
If bullying and harassment have caused injury to health, commonly diagnosed as "stress", see the page on injury to health and the one on the psychiatric injury of trauma, a collection of symptoms congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
May 2005: One in five young people bullied by mobile phone or via the internet [More]
March 2005: Study reveals 40 percent of students claim to have been bullied online [More]
Cyberbullying - practical advice for parents and schoolsConflict in Cyberspace: how to resolve conflict online by Kali Munro
The Psychology of Cyberspace by John Suler
26 August 2004: article in New York Times, Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound From Afar
Where now at Related Issues?
Violence, rage, abuse, discrimination and issues related to bullying
Related Issues Home Page
Bullying by neighbours | Bullying by landlords
Bullying by the church | Bullying and cults | Bullying and prisons
Bullying and whistleblowing | Bullying and stammering
Bullying and age discrimination | Bullying and long hours
Bullying and minorities | Bullying of gays and lesbians
Transsexuals and bullying | Bullying and disfigurement
Bullying and adoption | Bullying and eating disorders
Bullying and racism | Bullying because you're seen as overweight or fat
The cost of drugs and alcohol at work | Corporate bullying and fad-speak
Working from home | Management consultants
Bullying and business ethics | Toxic management | Bullying and fat cats
Bullying and call centres | Bullying and snooping
Cyberbullying, emails and the Internet
Abusive telephone calls | Bullying and mobile phones
Health and safety | The welfare officer
Domestic violence | A serial bully in the family | Female violence
Bullying and anger | Road rage, office rage | Verbal violence
Violence | Gun violence | Spree killings
Bullying and abuse | Sexual abuse | Drug rape | Stalking
Bullying in the movies | Trauma and the paranormal
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
Workplace bullying | School bullying | Family bullying
Bullying news | Bullying case histories
Bullying resources | Press and media centre
Stress, PTSD and psychiatric injury
Action to tackle bullying | Related issues