Internet Trolling

Cyberbullying: The Sociocultural Implications of Online Abuse and Harassment

Cyberbullying is a form of abuse, let me illustrate. If you’ve been on the internet for any period of time, you’ve likely run into a troll at some point. Mainly, an internet troll is someone who makes intentionally inflammatory, rude, or upsetting statements online. Specifically, to elicit strong emotional responses in people or to steer the conversation off-topic. They can come in many forms. Most trolls indulge in this activity for their own amusement. But other forms of trolling are done to push a specific agenda. The internet trolls are a part of the heart of online abuse that people have to face nowadays on a daily basis.

Interestingly, trolls have existed in folklore and fantasy literature for centuries, but online trolling has been around for as long as the internet has existed. In particular, the most early known usage of the term can be seen in the 1990s on early online message boards. Interestingly, back then, it was a way for users to confuse new members by repeatedly posting an inside joke. It’s since turned into a much more malicious activity.

Internet trolling has taken a vicious turn through its medium. Specifically, through the evolution of social media channels, online forums, chat rooms, and endless other avenues. The dark side of internet trolling is gaining a speed that should worry people.

Secondly, attacks on people online have been to the extent of cyberbullying and online harassment.

Cyberbullying ( Online Abuse)

Cyber Bullying ( Online Abuse)

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Specifically, cyberbullying(online abuse) is bullying that takes place on digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Mainly, through SMS, text, and apps, or online on social media, forums, or gaming, where people can view, participate in, or share content. It includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation. Surprisingly, some cyberbullying (online abuse) crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.

Causes of Cyber-Bullying ( Form of Online Abuse)

Mainly, technology enables people to distance themselves from a situation even while they are in it. Furthermore, cyberbullies cannot see the pain they cause and thus cannot imagine the turmoil they put their victims through. In fact, many cyberbullies are told to answer for their behaviour afterwards, saying that the act made them feel funny and powerful.

Because they feel the victim deserves it. When it comes to school children bullying others, it is often due to the perceptions of status. Insecurities are a major factor in bullying and pupils often try to put their peers down to feel superior.

This is true for adults, too. It’s common for people to try and discredit or bully others based on a difference of opinion or a sense of superiority. Mainly, celebrities aren’t immune to this either. Not long ago, actress Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram account after constant abuse by Star Wars fans. Additionally, this is not an isolated event. The general public tends to target celebrities online when they do or say they don’t agree with their narrow point of view.

How can you prevent Cyber-Bullying or Online Abuse?

Surprisingly, studies have found that there is a strong connection between previous victims and current cyberbullies. Likewise, much like violence in real life, virtual bullying is a perpetuating cycle of anger. Therefore, the problem continues to cycle and gets worse each time.

These aren’t the only reasons cyberbullies (cyberbullying,online abuse) do what they do. But these are the more common reasons found among those who participate in investigations into cases of cyberbullying. Regardless of the reasons behind it, cyberbullying is a modern issue. It’s a result of modern technology, and the problem can only escalate further as technology keeps getting more advanced.

Cyberbullying is hard to identify because the conversation usually doesn’t take place in a public space. So teachers or others can’t become aware and intervene, meaning it’s up to the individual to do something about it most of the time.

The issue is, there’s a big stigma around the problem of cyberbullying. Whenever someone tries to bring it up (especially adults), people tend to lash back. Things like “get off the internet then” or “just don’t read it” are common. However, that ignores the problem and won’t alleviate its symptoms.

So is there a solution?

Simply put, no – there isn’t one fix-all solution. It will take a effort from people to fight cyberbullies ( result of cyberbullying,online abuse) and shut offending behaviour down.

Online Harassment

Online Harassment aka online abuse
Online Harassment

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Now, the term online harassment refers to being the target of unwelcome behaviour. Hypothetically, someone may inadvertently insult you, expose a secret you’d rather have kept private, or show unrequited affection. Whereas, if it’s an accident or not of malicious nature, you’ll probably just blow it off. Additionally, you might confront the problem, by letting them know they hurt your feelings, or that the comments were unwelcome. Furthermore, if someone challenges you, makes a rude observation, or says something you oppose, you might even be a little defiant and contest what they have to say. It becomes a serious problem when the undesirable statements are repetitive, excessive, or extremely offensive.

Statistics of Online Harassment & Cyber-Bullying

Online abuse — from impersonation accounts to hateful slurs and death threats — began with the advent of the internet itself, but the problem is pervasive and growing. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that more than 40% of Americans have experienced online abuse, and more than 60% have witnessed it. People of colour and LGBTQ+ people are easier targets online. Specifically, women are twice as likely as men to experience sexual harassment online.

In the middle of a global pandemic, as a wave of anti-racism activism sweeps the nation, conditions are ripe for a spike in online hate, harassment and cyber-bullying,online abuse. Additionally, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to protest police brutality, while millions more are distant at home, anxious and isolated, with eyes glued to their phones and computer screens.

In this climate of extreme uncertainty and unease, the tensions playing out “IRL” are sure to reverberate and escalate in the digital realm. Mainly, Covid-19 has already brought a rise in online attacks against scientists, public health experts, Asians, and Asian Americans. We will no doubt see increased abuse targeting activists, journalists of colour, and anyone commenting or reporting on the protests.

Anyone who’s ever been part of a Facebook or Twitter feud group can attest to the fact that it’s too easy to get entangled. These platforms make it hard to ignore incoming messages. It’s easy to just type back a reply or keep logging on to re-read the messages.

Defend Yourself against Online Abuse

With this in mind, the Harvard Business Review has worked with creative and media professionals, lawyers, psychologists, and technologists to develop a digital toolkit. The Online Harassment Field Manual, that offers comprehensive guidance on navigating online abuse in the U.S. If you or someone you know comes under attack, remember that you are not powerless.

Identify the Type of Online Harassment

There are concrete steps you can take to defend yourself and others. Firstly, identify the abuse ( done through cyberbullying, which is a form of online abuse). Online abuse, figure out whether it is the type of tactics that are in play to target you. These common tactics — albeit ever-evolving and often overlapping — include hateful speech, sexual harassment, threats of physical and sexual violence, impersonation, doxing, nonconsensual pornography, message bombing, and many more. But if you’re being abused, naming what you’re experiencing not only signals that it’s a tangible problem, but can also help you communicate with allies, employers, and law enforcement.

Document Online Abuse

Most importantly, keep in mind that if you report online abuse that violates a platform’s terms of service and succeed in getting it taken down, you could lose valuable evidence. That’s why it’s critical to document abuse before reporting it. Mainly, save emails, voicemails, and texts. Furthermore, take screenshots from social media and copy direct links whenever possible. Especially, if you’re being abused repeatedly by a specific individual or group, you may want to create a log, which can help you see patterns and build up evidence.

Specifically, documentation will be necessary should you decide to engage in law enforcement or pursue legal action. It can also be hugely helpful in conversations with an ally, manager, or employer, as repeating abusive comments aloud can be re-traumatizing. And paraphrasing them can mask their actual severity. But pointing to a screenshot is often less uncomfortable and more impactful.

Assess Your Safety

Has online abuse made you concerned for your physical safety or that of your family or colleagues? The anonymity afforded by the internet, alongside the proliferation of bots and other fake accounts, can make it very hard to judge. Basically, run through some key questions to help you assess the threat, ideally with a close friend or colleague as a sounding board.

But if you’re being made to feel physically unsafe in any way, trust your instincts. Also, you may need to temporarily relocate to a hotel or a friend’s place. And, depending on the circumstances, you may also need to consider reporting to law enforcement. While not all authorities are equipped to deal with online abuse, at the very least you are creating a record that could be useful later. If you are not comfortable engaging with law enforcement on your own, consider bringing an ally, enlisting the help of your manager or employer (if the abuse is work-related), or consulting with a lawyer.

Block, Mute, Report

Mainly, blocking, muting, and reporting abuse on social media platforms are distinct actions. Also, you can block accounts (so they cannot communicate with or follow you). And you can sometimes mute accounts or even specific posts or words (so you don’t have to see them). Additionally, you can report abuse( cyberbullying, online abuse) that violates the terms of service to try to get a post taken down or an account can be taken down.

While valuable, these tools are imperfect. As blocking can escalate abuse, muting can mask threats you may need to monitor, and reporting mechanisms are not always effective. Even when abusive content blatantly violates terms of service. You can enlist allies that can help: be it loyal and trustworthy friends or colleagues who can keep tabs on your mentions. Also, while you’re blocking and muting, inform you of any escalation or threats, and report with and to you.

Increase your Cybersecurity

It can be difficult to find the mental space to tackle your cybersecurity when you’re under attack. But abusive trolls will often try to access and broadcast your private information to humiliate or intimidate you. Mainly, to protect yourself from hacking and impersonation, start by practising password hygiene. In particular, use long passwords (ideally a string of words and symbols with at least 16 characters). Mainly, be sure to never re-use passwords, invent answers to security questions. Additionally, you can set up two-factor authentication on your key personal and professional accounts (email, social media, banking, etc.). And if you’re wondering how you’re going to keep track of all that, consider getting a password manager.

To protect yourself from doxing and other invasions of privacy. Mainly, take some time to dox yourself (not literally) establish firm boundaries between your personal and professional presence online.

Practice Self-Care

Remember, this is not your fault. Specifically, online abuse can elicit feelings of fear and shame. It is exhausting and demoralizing. It can do real and lasting damage to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Remember to resist the urge to ignore how you’re feeling. And remember that people are under different types of abuse which depend on their race, gender, sexuality, and experience. Always make time for self-care. This can include anything from meditation or cooking to listening to music or going for walks. Whatever you choose, it must involve taking regular breaks from your devices.

Importantly, seeking professional mental health care can also make a big difference. Especially if you get to a point where you feel hopeless or paralyzed by fear. Secondly, if you talk about your abuse obsessively, struggle to enjoy things, or have difficulty eating or sleeping. If you do not have access to mental health care benefits through an employer. Additionally, take a look at the ADAA’s Guide to Affordable Mental Health Care. And check out this advice from a psychologist with her own experience of online abuse aka cyberbullying, especially.


Remember that, at the individual level, it is very difficult to prevent people from being abusive online. And, at the institutional level, there’s still a lot of work to be done to improve tools. In particular for self-defence and mechanisms for accountability. But the above guidance offers a good place for individuals experiencing abuse to start.

Armed with your own wits and resilience, bolstered by concrete guidance and the support of others. You have the power to push back against abuse and protect the space for free expression in the digital realm.

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