Cyberbullying is a disease. Yes, you heard me. I know this because the Centers for Disease Control says it is and issued (with the Department of Education) the following definition for Cyberbullying:
Electronic bullying or cyberbullying involves primarily verbal aggression (e.g., threatening or harassing electronic communications) and relational aggression (e.g., spreading rumors electronically). Electronic bullying or cyberbullying can also involve property damage resulting from electronic attacks that lead to the modification, dissemination, damage, or destruction of a youth’s privately stored electronic information
This article was inspired by the actions of a cyberbully who scheduled an appointment with me using someone else’s name and phone number. Clearly, the pretense or false appointment was meant to hurt the person, because of the nature of the presenting problem. Of course, I call the person at the appointment time, only to discover that she or he had NOT scheduled the appointment. Understand that I wondered why a client who did not have a prior professional relationship with me would disclose such personal information, but I didn’t allow myself to overly judge the call. However, once I called and spoke with the supposed client, and was told that she/he did not make the appointment, I realized that it was a case of cyberbullying.
Then I remembered that most of the work discussing bullying is related to children and youth. Of course, I know that bullying is an equal opportunity act in that age does not matter. So I wanted to offer another narrative or commentary on bullying and cyberbullying, “perpetrators”, and “victims.” My thinking is that if we don’t change our worldview about perpetrators and victims then “mean” individuals will never stop being mean and neither will our response to being mistreated—sickness and fear. I know I sound like Glenda, the good witch in the movie The Wizard of Oz, but I am convinced that there are other ways to think and behave in response to “problem behavior” that far too few of us are acknowledging.
When I think about the prevalence of bullying behavior--from the out-house to the White House--I know that we must find other ways to deal with our bullying problem. For the consequences of bullying are disturbing--physical ailments, emotional distress, employee turnover, and legal costs to name a few.
However, I’d like to spend the remainder of our time offering discussing what I know will help to curtain or perhaps change our relationship to misbehaviors. The answer as I see is that we need to learn more intimately who we are as people, and to use our knowledge about ourselves to recreate a better relationship with ourselves and each other.
Right now this is our thinking:
1) Bullies are bad people who must be punished.
2) Victims are innocent, mostly good people, who feel helpless in the face of bullying.
Bullies (not my preferred word) and Victims (neither is this one) are people who are behaving in ways that are inconsistent with who they really are as humans, yet are behaving consist with cultural norms and expectations. From my perspective, both are in need to change, i.e., how to view the self and how to treat others.
As onlookers or gatekeepers, we must marshal a new paradigm for thinking about ourselves and responding to other selves
We must, then, be intentional and proactive in our approach so that we may begin to create a different world period.