October 3, 2011
I had a battle with cyber-bullies when I started a discussion on Facebook regarding the election for a new Progress Conservative (PC) leader in Alberta. I don’t agree with this election because the PC party took advantage of the fact that they are the ones in power. So, the election for their new leader was, in fact, an election for the new premier. However, only members of the PC party are eligible to vote for the new leader. I raised concerns about this fact in the Facebook discussion.
What I thought would be an interesting exchange of viewpoints about the tactics used by the PC party during their reign became a battleground. At first, there were a few people participating, asking questions, getting clarification about my opinion, and expressing their own.
Then the cyber-bullies started in. That effectively shut everyone else out. Of course, if others also wanted to be ripped apart, they could have stayed in the discussion. But at that point, everyone else became the silent ones who simply read the posts and stayed out of the discussion. It’s unfortunate that individuals feel they have the right to speak the way the bullies did. If we had been conducting this conversation in person, I wonder if these bullies would have behaved in this manner? Regardless, I do not wish to ever associate with these people, on a personal level or in business or otherwise.
Interestingly enough, their Facebook profiles are attached to every one of their comments. I know who these people are. They live in a small community. I know where they work, what type of activities they participate in, what group they hang out with. They are not anonymous people. Do they not realize how exposed they are when they participate in an online forum? Especially one that involves people who live in a small community?
I could even take screen shots of their comments and make a complaint to the legal authorities. They would have a hard time denying that they made these comments. It would not be just “my word against theirs.” It’s online, in black print on a white background. With profile pictures and names attached.
As I read their posts, I could hear the childish taunts in my head. I could see a group of children standing around in a circle, hurling the comments at me. What I thought was to be a conversation between mature adults became a bullying episode on the elementary school ground.
“Let me put this as simple as possible.” Because my opinion differed from theirs, they obviously thought I was stupid. “Go back to grade 7 Social Studies.” The same last names attached to those two comments lead me to assume that the comments belong to a husband and wife team. I have to wonder how their children behave on the Internet.
When I suggested that one individual initiate a separate post on the variety of issues he was bringing up, too many to deal with in the one post I had created, he accused me of trying to shut him down. He even went so far as to connect the current discussion with a previous post he had started about an entirely different issue. That previous discussion had become rampant with cyber-bullies and when it turned racist, I reported it to the administrators. For some reason, this individual felt my suggestion in our current discussion was related to a racist post.
Some of these cyber-bullies got whom they must have considered “an expert” on the topic to participate. This new individual took it upon himself to “explain” certain points to me. He was polite, his posts were acceptable, and we did have a good discussion. I did have to clarify that I knew how the process worked, and once I did that, he was able to continue the discussion on a different level than merely “showing me the way.”
I was very proud of myself. I did not allow myself to be brought down to the level of the cyber-bullies. I retained my opinion, stuck to the point of my discussion, and remained detached from the rude and childish comments. I have since received comments from other individuals who read the posts, but refrained from participating. I’m glad that they have considered what I had to say. It’s unfortunate that they felt they could not contribute to the discussion.
The end result? I removed myself from that group. If I cannot have an adult, mature conversation with a group of whom I believe are adults themselves, then I do not wish to associate with the group. There were only a few adults that behaved in this manner. But these few shut the other members out.
The next time this occurs to me, I’m going to take screen shots. This will be the documentation that I will need to report the bullying to the authorities. Facebook does have the tool that allows you to delete posts from your view. After you delete the post, you are asked if you want to report it as “spam” or as “abuse.” I think more of us need to use that button. I’m not sure what happens when one reports a post as “abuse,” but at least I wouldn’t have to see that post every time I log into the discussion.
When I researched “cyber-bullying” on the Internet, I found sites that were devoted to what children should do in the case of cyber-bullying. I guess everyone assumes that adults would conduct themselves in a more reasonable manner. Regardless, whether adults or children experience cyber-bullying, there are laws to protect us.
Check out the following links for more information: http://www.bewebaware.ca/english/cyberbullying.html
Read my blog titled, “Electing a new premier” to find out the concerns I was raising in the Facebook discussion.