When your friend is the cyberbully
We are all so used to the bully being an antagonist, someone who is bigger than us, scarier than us, someone we dread seeing, someone who we would try to avoid at all costs, but what happens when the bully, the master manipulator, the perpetrator is a friend? As life moves on, so do our friends. Things get complicated, and friend groups split. People grow apart and drift away, but sometimes we remain friends for many years. But what about when those friends start to make comments, demeaning jokes, and nasty comments online? What about when those friends start to become mean? What about when those friends become a bully?
Bullying can often be mistaken for a fight with friends, but in reality, it is much more than this. Bullying is repetitive; it is degrading comments and sometimes physical violence over and over again. It doesn't have to be in person. Instead, in this digital age, a person can get bullied anywhere, everywhere, and anytime.
We all joke with each other, but the key word in that sentence is a joke. These friends, however, may take it too far. They may say something that seriously hurts us. This can be made worse in a group when the rest of your friends laugh. You may not want to seem like someone who cannot take a joke, the one that is too serious, too robotic.
Sometimes this friend may send you a text claiming that "they are over you, that you're mean" they may post something on social media being passive-aggressive, claiming that you are the bully, and instead try to isolate you from the friend group. Being in a friend group should mean having more support, but sometimes it can only worsen things. There is always a fear that the group will ditch you and that you will be alone because everyone else will leave you for the bully. Sometimes, they fear the repercussions of leaving the bully or because they have not yet realised that the bully is a bully.
Bullies can be master manipulators, people who choose the right time to insult or hurt you. It may be over text; it may be within a group chat. Sometimes it can be in front of a group of people. Either way, nothing is ever said against the perpetrator because standing up to the bully, being anything but a bystander or victim, can be risky and frightening. It can be challenging when the bully influences people's feelings and emotions. They make others feel bad for them, make your friends feel as if the bully is a fragile person, and once again make everyone think you are the bully when you are nothing but a victim.
It is similar to how predators hunt. They separate a member from the pack until they are at their weakest, then they attack. Bullies don't try to sort out the issue rationally; they do not try to communicate because there is often an underlying issue as to why they chose to isolate you from the herd. These reasons can include jealousy, they want to be liked and accepted, they want to fit in, they feel angry inside, they like to be in control, they have been bullied, or they don't understand that what they are doing is wrong. Sometimes the bully doesn't mean to be a bully, sometimes, they are joking, but sometimes there is retaliation from the victim or bystander that again turns into bullying and only extends the cycle. It is best not to retaliate, but it can be difficult. The most challenging part will be moving away from the toxic environment, recognising that the friend is a bully, and fixing the issue.
How to recognise that a friend is more aptly described as a bully:
A bully often acts as the victim.
They manipulate you often through feelings of guilt.
Their moods control your own.
It takes more energy to be around them than to not be near them.
You dread seeing them even when you should be happy to see them.
What to do if you are bullied:
Try to distance yourself from the bully.
Do not bully them back.
Talk to them and ask them to stop.
Tell them that what they are doing is not ok.
Block them on social media or delete social media for a while.
Talk to someone that you trust.
Being a parent is tough at the best of times but being a parent to a child who is being bullied is just ten times harder. What can parents do to help if their child is being bullied:
Talk to your child about what they can do if they are bullied.
Look for signs of distress and changes in their behaviour. Bullying can cause an onset of negative thoughts, including, in some severe cases, ideas regarding self-harm.
Check on your child often.
Seek professional help.
If you notice anything off, ask them about it, check their devices, and call their school to see if anything may have been reported.
About the author Tealia:
I am 16 years old, and I joined this committee to make a difference and be the support that my peers deserve, the voice for those who cannot speak up, and the guide to help navigate the rocky world of social media. I want to help my peers be heard and make their online experiences more positive. I bring to this committee my strength, dedication, and support. I am excited to help.