Cyberbullying in social media
At present, social media is the essential part of our daily life. Through the social media platforms, people can communicate with others, share personal lives, make new friends and gather more extensive information. Namely, social media brings convenience to people’s lives. However, a new aggression appears with the development of social media – cyberbullying, and this issue is becoming a particular problem in the media field.
(The Update, 2016)
Due to the advanced development of science and technology, the traditional model of information dissemination is challenged by the Internet. At the stage of Web 2.0, people are not only the receivers of information, but also the producers of information. In other words, Web 2.0 can be simply defined as the version of the web that is open to ordinary users and where they can add content according to their wills (Brown, 2009). The engagement of social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and so forth is the demonstration of Web 2.0. Hinton and Hjorth claim that the most outstanding feature of social media compared with the mass media is “participation”, and participation contains two different forms: one is user generated content (UGC), the other one is user created content (UCC). UGC means the users forward contents that are made by others, while UCC means users create the content themselves to share with other users on the social media platform. These are participations on different dimensions (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013). As such, the user becomes the producer of information rather than the receiver.
On the form of UGC, people comment on the other notifications to express their feelings, and on the form of UCC, the created content not only involves creativity but also time, emotion and various forms of capital (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013). Therefore, the information that was commented or published by users always contains personal emotion more or less. Sometimes, the personal emotion is affirmative to praise and encourage others. However, some content contains negative emotion to attack others. Kowalski (2012) claims that cyberbullying is defined as “bullying through e-mail, on a Web site, on an online gaming site, or through digital messages or images sent to phones”. Actually, cyberbullying is not only verbal abuse, it contains flaming, harassment, denigration, impersonation, ostracism, cyberstalking, video recording of assaults, and sexting (Kowalski, 2012). As social media platform is the mainstreaming space to express personal viewpoint for ordinary people, so the emotional context and comment are easy to appear on social media sites, and these platforms provide more chances for cyberbullying to happen.
As a result of the popularization of social media, cyberbullying may happen to everybody, and everyone can be the abuser. According to the survey data on February 2015 as shown below: in the first bar chart about cyberbullying victimization, about 34 per cent of people in the sample had been cyberbullied, and 21 per cent people were cyberbullied over two times in previous 30 days. Rumors (19.4 %) and hurtful comments (12.8%) were the cyberbullying types cited most by the informants. The second bar chart presents that people will become sufferers of cyberbullying. Approximately 15 per cent of informants admitted that they had cyberbullied others. Comparing with the other cyberbullying behaviour, spreading rumors was the most commonly behaviour on the internet. In addition, 5.5 per cent of people in the sample used over one cyberbullying form and more than twice to cyberbully others. Although the survey sample group have limitations as they are all students in Midwestern U.S, the data has stringency to prove that cyberbullying is ubiquitous and generating negative impact to the public.
(Hinduja and Patchin, 2015)
(Hinduja and Patchin, 2015)
Bullying create memories that often last a lifetime (Kowalski, 2012). For instance, Justin Sacco, a PR woman from New York, she tweeted little acerbic jokes to her 170 followers on Twitter. Before her trip to Heathrow, she tweeted a little acerbic joke:
(Sacco, cited in Ronson, 2015)
Then she began her 11 hour long-distance flight. However, she did not know, because this short Twitter was retweeted by one of her 170 followers to Gawker journalist, and he then re-tweeted it to his 15000 followers. It suddenly became a hot issue on Twitter. After several weeks of this issue, Gawker journalist responded with this thing that he thought Justine was fine.
However, she started to face many negative impacts. When she arrived Heathrow after 11 hour and turned on her phone, she received a lot of message came from her friends that she even had not talked since high school. Worse still, she became the reprehensive target on Twitter. She received all kinds of rebuke and insult everyday.
(Miranda, cited in Ronson, 2015)
Unfortunately, her company dismissed her as most Twitter users who participated within the discussion of this issue were hoping Justine to be dismissed.
(Carla, cited in Ronson, 2015)
And the worst thing was that beside herself, even her family received various intimidatory information.
(Sacco, cited in Ronson, 2015)
(Sacco, cited in Ronson, 2015)
When Helen Lewis, who is a New Statesman writer twitted that “I’m not sure that her joke was intended to be racist”. But verbal attacks on Helen from angry Twitter users. She was compelled against her will to keep silence.
However the abuse to Justine did not resolve any problems. As Meghan O’Gieblyn wrote in the Boston Review, “This isn’t social justice. It’s a cathartic alternative.” Even though most users of Twitter expressed the similar aspiration, bet we cannot say that most people contributed to justice, since Justine’s case represents that sharing of some personal ideas on social media platforms may result severe outcomes that are unfair.
To prevent cyberbullying, there are three notices for the social media users:
- Self-protection. When creating and managing the personal social media platform, some private information should not be published, such as contact information and family members’ information. Furthermore, the intimate photographs are better not be uploaded to social media platform and applications.
- Rationally comment. When discussing issues, we should have reasoned judgements. Do not follow the others’ viewpoints to denounce the users concerned blindly. Although Rosen (2015) states that public shaming is the judgement of the group that a person has acted outside its boundaries, it is supporting to function as a king of barometer. However, when the indignation of the public has exploded, public shaming will become cyberbullying to hurt the users concerned, especially the innocent people. As such, rational comment is significant to provide harmony of social media platform.
- Create content: When publishing notifications on social media platform, we should respect different cultures and ideologies. When taking photos or recording videos of emergency news that will be posted onto social media platform, we should respect others’ privacy. As social media is the public space for everyone, we have responsibility with our language and actions.
We must acknowledge that social media provides a lot of convenience. For individuals, users can share experience, find someone that have similar habits, gather multidimensional information and so forth. To the public, social media provides a free platform for different people who have different identities and occupations. The government can release information timely to the public to reduce social panic; the enterprise can publicise their product on the social media to save advertising expenditure. With the popularisation of smart phone, the public is becoming citizen-journalists who can record and release news. In every field, social media have far-reaching implication, it is a platform for ordinary people to express their thoughts. Nevertheless, cyberbullying is ruining the platform as the users cannot share their ideas freely, worrying if there will be unexpected verbal attack and intimidation. Rosen (2015) claims that “online we can all play at both vulnerability and retribution. The anonymity that allows our viciousness also allows us to quickly more past the emotional road kill we leave behind.” Thus, more attention has to be paid on cyberbullying as it is a serious problem which prevents the social media to operate effectively.
So, this article summarizes the issue of cycberbullying, which is related to my designed social media project for this semester, ‘The Portable Wardrobe’. When popularizing ‘The Portable Wardrobe’ on different social media platforms, I had to make attracting contents that are genuine, and at the same time choose words and pictures carefully, which do not possess any prejudiced sense.
Brown, R. (2009). Public relations and the social web: How to use social media and web 2.0 in communications. London; Philadelphia;: Kogan Page.
Hinduja, S., Patchin, J. W. (2015). Cyberbullying Offending. Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.org/2015-data/cyberbullying-offending-2015-2/
Hinduja, S., Patchin, J. W. (2015). Cyberbullying Victimization. Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.org/2015-data/
Hinton, Sam (Lecturer in media), & Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding social media. London: SAGE.
Kowalski, R. M., Limber, S. P., & Agatston, P. W. (2012). Cyberbullying: Bullying in the digital age (2nd ed.). Chicester: Wiley.
Ronson, J. (2015). When online shaming spirals out of control. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_what_happens_when_online_shaming_spirals_out_of_control?language=en
Rosen, C. (2015). The shaming spiral. New York: Commentary.
The Update. (2016). Cyber bullying: The issues and ways to prevent it. Retrieved from https://thelachatupdate.com/2015/11/10/3411/