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Bullying Goes High Tech And It Could Affect Your Business Or Your Workplace

Whenever there is a report about bullying the average person will have a series of beliefs formed by their own experience, but generally they have a very common response. They
06 May 2017 11:00
Bullying Goes High Tech And It Could Affect Your Business Or Your Workplace

Whenever there is a report about bullying the average person will have a series of beliefs formed by their own experience, but generally they have a very common response.

They word bullying brings up physical attack, someone (or a number of people) attacking a weaker victim and it is generally seen as a male biased problem.

That appears to be right up until about ten years ago, when the availability of different social media apps became widespread. These made it possible for the bully to attack the victim without and personal contact and made it very much easier for the attacker, removing, to a great extent, the risk of direct retaliation.

Now, in most countries, social media is the weapon of choice for the bully. It also makes it possible for the weaker to attack the strong, something that rarely happened in the past.

The nature of the bullying also changed, from predominantly physical to some very sophisticated emotional activities.

And research reports that the gender of the bully has moved from predominantly male to markedly younger females, with the target about equally split by gender. The psychology of the new generation of high tech bullies is interesting.

While the primary objective still appears to be to inflict emotional hurt on the victim, there is a very high level of self fulfilment is being seen by the other social media users as a dominant and aggressive person.

In other words, the bully is showing off and social media allows for a much wider group to be aware of the actions.

Bullying no longer involves a very small group of onlookers (or even co-bullies) and there are no limits to location, such as a school yard, playing field, street or club. Now there is no location limit and a very wide audience.

 

Snapchat

A new application, which was originally launched in April 2011 and was designed to mainly make sharing of photos easy, has been developing in functionality and popularity and has shown amazing growth in recent years.

This application is called Snapchat and in November 2015 it is reported that it carried over six billion shots and videos a day with over a hundred and fifty million users. It is configured to carry both written messages and visual material in both still photo and video format.

Another important feature of the application is that each message can only be viewed once and then automatically deletes, making it very difficult to review any activity. This feature makes it the weapon of choice for bullies.

A typical bully will set out to embarrass the victim by publishing graphic material that places the person in a bad light and then adds comments to open up questions about the person’s honesty, ethics, behaviour or other actions that could be seen as not acceptable. The bullying generally consists of a series of posts of material over a period of time.

Almost all the social media applications can, and are, used for the type of emotional bullying that is now becoming prevalent but because of the lack of a trail of material being available with the applications automatic delete function, Snapchat has been adopted by a great number of users for bullying.

Because of the fugitive nature of the material it is very difficult for the victim to prove the bullying, except by involving other recipients who are prepared to provide verbal evidence, which at best is generally both inaccurate in terms of frequency and content.

For some people, particularly those who are already unsure of themselves and sensitive to the way others, particularly their peers, view them this sort of activity is very damaging emotionally. There have been cases where the use of social media items have caused the victims great stress and occasionally lead to self-harm.

 

How can it be controlled

How can this ugly activity be controlled. The only way is for the person publishing the material to be confronted by the victim or better still by the other recipients of the material and publically exposed as a bully.

This appears to work well, but is difficult to organise. It needs the goodwill of all involved, but the “throwing open the windows reaction” is the simplest and fastest way to put an end to the bullying, just as it was in the old days when a gang of friends could confront the physical bully and deliver an ultimatum.

There is no question that the act of bullying is distasteful and ugly and when it is targeted to create emotional upset and pain it is even worse, but the involvement of friends and peers will go a long way to stamping out the growing trend.

 

Bullying in Business

The same issues apply to business, where disgruntled people can use the social media to target a particular company or (more often) a particular brand and publish unfounded comments and doctored photographs that are designed to bring commercial harm to the target.

People have always been able to do this with the earlier social media platforms but the difficult thing to manage with the short-life apps is that often it will go unnoticed for some time by the target and there is no “paper trail” that can be followed to seek redress.

This makes it easier for people to get away with false claims with no supporting evidence and has the potential to cause significant damage to the target.

While the abuse of social media, particularly targeting commercial operations, is small there are indications that it is growing and concern that there is no real way for either individuals or commercial groups to take action to protect themselves.

Many governments around the world are seeking ways to control the defamatory content without attacking freedom of speech, but there are no clear ways forward yet.

 

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