Has anyone ever spread a mean rumour about you, harassed you, or tried to pressure you into doing something? If so, you have experienced bullying firsthand! Many of us are familiar with bullying, but as the popularity of the internet has grown, cyberbullying has also become a widespread issue affecting both children and adults. In this article we explore what cyberbullying is, why it so difficult to deal with, and how it can impact your mental health.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Many of us know what traditional bullying is and have experienced this type of hurtful behaviour personally. But what exactly is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying refers specifically to when someone purposely tries to cause pain or embarrassment to another person, often on a repeated basis, in an online or virtual setting.
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone at any age, but often happens to teens and youth. According to a report from the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) 1 in 6 high school students admitted to being a victim of cyberbullying in a given year.
What are examples of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can manifest in many ways including:
Sharing personal details about someone that could cause feelings of shame or embarrassment
Creating and/or spreading rumours or lies about someone
Speaking about someone is a derogatory way
Impersonating someone in online settings
In a world where so many of us are interconnected online, technology gives many options to someone who wants to bully another person. Cyberbullying can occur through text messages, emails, posting photos, videos or screenshots, social media platforms, chatrooms and other online communities such as Reddit, gaming groups or chats. Technology gives cyberbullies many powerful weapons to use against others, often with minimal repercussions.
Why Is Cyberbullying So Difficult To Deal With?
All bullying can be painful and hard to deal with as the victim, whether physical, psychological or emotional, but there are a few aspects of cyberbullying that make it uniquely hard and potentially damaging to those who are subjected to it.
Cyberbullying Is Harder To Track
Before the internet became so integral to society, bullying was something that could really only be done in real life. It was more difficult to bully someone without others noticing it. But cyberbullying is much easier to do without anyone realizing it’s occurring. There are so many people interacting with each other in the virtual world that it’s easy for cyberbullying to fly under the radar, making it less likely for victims to get the help or support.
Cyberbullying Can Be Long-Lasting Or Even Permanent
One of the big problems with cyberbullying is that there is often no escape from it. Because we are so tied to being online constantly, cyberbullying can become an ongoing stressor eating away at our self-esteem and wellbeing. It can take on a life of its own. In addition, once something is on the internet, it’s much more difficult to erase or forget it. Someone could be tormented about the same photo or video for months or even years after it surfaces online.
Cyberbullying Allows Bullies Too Much Anonymity And Distance
Another unique aspect of cyberbullying is that it allows much more anonymity than typical bullying. Online bullying thrives on the detachment that is possible within the virtual world. The ability to often remain anonymous online allows people to say things to or about someone that they would never say in real life. Yet the person on the receiving end can often still be deeply affected by these terrible comments and actions. The distance bullies gain from their victims online often gives them the boldness to be even more cruel and to disconnect from the fact that a real person is at the other end of their harsh words.
Cyberbullying Can Reach Large Numbers Of People Quickly
Although dealing with a cyberbullying incident is painful enough on its own, it can be made worse by how easily something terrible can spread online in a short time span. If someone says something cruel about you or shares an embarrassing video or photo of you online, it can be spread to hundreds or even thousands of people very quickly.
Whether the information spread about you is true or not, these other strangers can not only see what is being said or shown about you, but in certain instances (e.g., open forums or those with comment sections) strangers can even add their own comments into the mix. This puts even more emotional and mental stress and anxiety on the person being cyberbullied.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect Mental Health?
Cyberbullying isn’t always an experience that can be easily brushed off, whether you’re a child or adult. Incidents of cyberbullying have an immense and debilitating physical and emotional impact on those affected. Cyberbullying can affect mental health by causing or worsening issues like social isolation, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts. Many people are cyberbullied by someone they know—even friends—which can have an even greater impact on the victim’s mental health due to the additional feelings of betrayal and abandonment. If cyberbullying is not addressed, these problems can become chronic or spiral out of control over time.
The Bottom Line
The rapid growth of technology and our immersion in it has allowed cyberbullying to become a widespread issue. Whether you are a child or an adult, cyberbullying can have a significant negative impact on your mental health. If you believe you are being cyberbullied, please reach out to someone you trust to let them know what is happening. If you don’t have anyone you can trust, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist so they can listen and try to help you determine the best steps to address and cope with the situation. You deserve to feel safe!
If you are struggling with issues like anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem and are interested in speaking to a therapist, please contact us to book a free consultation or session—we would be happy to help! We have various in-person and virtual counselling and psychotherapy services in Barrie, ON to suit your needs.
Our team of online and in-person counsellors and psychotherapists in Barrie provide quality and effective mental health counselling services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.