Social networking is “the development of social and professional contacts, the sharing of information and services among people” (Dictionary, 2015). As network developers imagine and create programs to make this world a smaller place to live I’m sure their intent was not to create an environment that also supports anonymous online bullying. The ability to create and receive support for a forum that fosters negative and hurtful comments is far easier today than yesterday. A concern amongst many advocacy groups is what will it be like tomorrow. While social networking is in its infancy, cyber bullying and violence directed towards those perceived different can easily reach a greater audience.
The Internet has been naturalized; it’s everywhere. Around 35% of the world’s population has access to the Internet. Sixty-nine percent of American households use the Internet; otherwise have access through work, school, and libraries (Aulette). Instead of face-to-face interactions whereby someone physically or mentally hurts someone, it can now be accomplished from the comfort and privacy of your home or anywhere with Internet access.
It’s difficult to say when one may be bullied and for what reason someone decides to target them. The assumption, which has been socially constructed through movies and television shows is that bullying is between a jock and a nerd. However bullying can develop from one’s “flaw”, whether it is body size, appearance, intelligence, social class, etc. I was always taught that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, that I shouldn’t say anything at all, however many feel the need to make comments where often it is unnecessary and unwanted. Previously I was witness to an online dispute that involved a girl posting what she believed to be an innocent photo of her and her boyfriend. The comment section resulted in pages of negative comments about their relationship and banter between multiple people bringing up her history and anonymously posting their opinions of her. This isn’t the first dispute I have been witness too online with the common theme resulting with the girl as the victim. What I have also observed is that bullying is gender neutral with both boys and girls being active participants. I would consider this yet another male privilege, given that girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims of cyber bullying (Do Something).
Bullying isn’t only an issue that is dealt with by children as it often carries into the adult years. Celebrities are not immune to bullying and are commonly tweeted about in a negative light. Recently actress Ashley Judd tweeted an innocent comment about a basketball game that received more attention than intended. She received so much hatred and violent sexual threats that she needed to delete the tweet. What Ashley has experienced is not uncommon for females on the Internet. This one tweet resulted in her intellect insulted in addition to her age; appearance and family (Time, 2015). She explains that the responses are “in vivid language, humiliating and violent resulting in assaulting her genitals, vaginal and anal, would be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated”. “Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved” (Time, 2015). I am not saying that men would not be harassed for the same kind of tweet, but you don’t often see them being sexually harassed over social networking the way women often are. Ashley, along with many girls and women all around the world, are sexually objectified. “They are made into a thing for another’s sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision-making” (Aulette). When harassers speak about violently raping and any other violent actions, they may be trying to assert hegemonic dominance of the victim. I believe that one of the hardest parts about any situation like this would be that the harasser might never be brought to justice.
No one asks to be harassed or feel sexually abused. Not when you post a picture on Facebook for your friends to see or in tweeting support for your favorite team during a basketball game. People hide behind their screens; sometimes even their anonymity and abuse people believing nothing will be done about it. Eighty-one percent of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person (Do Something). While there are laws and many people trying to prevent and stop online harassment, the harsh reality is that it is still very difficult to convict.
The Internet isn’t a phase; its here to stay and people need to learn how to use it responsibly. People also need to understand the growing issue that women represent the majority of online harassment. These women are not only harassed verbally, but sexually as well. What needs to be done in order to attempt to prevent online harassment in a time that social networking is becoming easier and more popular? Personally, I think there could be big changes if people held their tongues and if they didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
“Social Networking.” Dictionary.com. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/social networking>.
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Third Edition ed. New York. 226 & 237. Print.
“11 Facts about Cyber Bullying.” Do Something. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. <https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying>.
Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/>.