The evolution of the internet has contributed so much to making our lives simpler, faster, easier, and more enjoyable. However, like with any new technology, there will always be issues, and in the case of the internet, cyber bullying and trolling are among the worst. According to this article from The Guardian, not only do “one in five children say they have been victims of cyberbullying on social media during the last year”, but a survey of 11 to 16-year-olds says that “trolling” and “bullying” are the biggest issues they have faced. As Julie Zhuo points out, and as we have explored during discussions in the past few weeks, “anonymity increases unethical behavior”. That is, a lot of trolling and bullying stems from the fact that users feel safe posting from behind the anonymity of their computers.
I examined an article from nobullying.com, which listed 6 unforgettable cyberbullying cases. The first involved Ryan, who had academic and physical struggles in middle school. Next was Megan, who had ADD and depression, as well as issues with her weight. Jessica committed suicide after a nude picture of her got sent around to local high schools. Tyler was constantly bullied for being gay. All the victims that were involved in cyber bullying had one thing in common: they were extremely vulnerable. Online users (often former friends or classmates) took advantage of their weaknesses, whether physical or mental, and used that to make fun of them online.
The most alarming thing is that many of these kids ended up committing suicide, because they couldn’t take the burden of the bullying anymore. Of course these were extreme cases, but other effects of cyber bullying can include depression, anxiety, as well as psychological, physical, and emotional stress.
Furthermore, Mattathias Schwartz examines the point of view of trolls, and what goes on in their heads. He explains in The Trolls Among Us, that trolling is a “subculture that is built on deception and delights in playing with the media”. Trolls and cyber bullies get enjoyment out of other people’s frustrations, anger, and pain. Thus, I think not only is trolling and cyberbullying having obvious negative effects on the victims, but the bullies are also feeling more powerful and better about themselves. This is ultimately creating a divide in our society, where there could be pressure for teenage kids to either join a side: be a bully or get bullied. Or, kids who were previously picked on online get so frustrated that they take their anger out on others, and it turns into a never ending circle.
What do you think the possible long term effects of trolling and cyber bullying could be on individual kids? How could their lives be altered? How about the long term effects on society as a whole? Is there anything more that can be done to prevent cyber bullying? Would making users less anonymous on the internet help eliminate a good chunk of trolls and cyber bullies? Is it even possible to decrease anonymity (because users can always make fake usernames, emails, identities, etc.)?