You’d think that once we’d all grown up and left school we wouldn’t need to worry about bulling anymore. Not so. With the rise of the internet and social media, it’s likely most of you reading this will have experienced online bullying at least once.
For over-60s, the majority of this bullying comes from Facebook. Over-55s make up a huge portion of Facebook users and with so many different opinions out there, it’s easy to get caught up with an argument with someone from the safety of your living room.
What happens when healthy debate turns personal and mean? Bullies love social media because it gives them more power than they’d have in a face to face altercation.
From the comfort of their living room they can name call, belittle and harass without having to worry about a physical response. For a bully, social media is like a mask. They can hide behind a fake name or picture, or use their real persona if they’re game, say what they want and walk away without having to think about it ever again — never mind the person on the receiving end.
Who are these bullies and trolls who attack others online without caring about how it makes their victims fee? Online bullies can be different from ‘real world’ bullies; they’re not necessarily bullies in their every day life, but social media provides them with the confidence to share their feelings and opinions in a way they don’t normally get to.
According to No Bullying, “The anonymity of the internet can encourage an individual to commit acts they might not otherwise attempt in person. It affords false courage when the bully thinks he can’t be identified.”
All of a sudden bulling seems to have become a part of life for many older adults. While bullying online makes the perpetrator feel safer, it has the opposite affect on the victim.
They are being attacked by a stranger while in their very own living room. Suddenly, turning on the computer means more than just browsing your newsfeed or seeing what your loved ones are up to; it opens you up to hurt and abuse and for some it has a profound affect on them.
Andrea Weckerle, founder of anti-online bullying organisation CiviliNation and author, told news.com.au online adult bullying is becoming a serious issue.
“In many cases the victims suffer in silence, not knowing what to do to stop the onslaught or without the financial and legal means to pursue their attackers,” she said.
“Online attacks have become an epidemic and I fear it’s just a matter of time before an adult takes their own life.”
While most websites like Starts at 60, monitor their comments and try to prevent bullying, with thousands of comments flying across the page every day things can slip through the cracks.
How can we combat this problem and make the internet a safe place? Experts are yet to come up with an answer so it seems it’s up to us as adults to remember to be civil and courteous with each other.
No matter how much we disagree with someone, name calling, threats and rude comments are never the answer. We all have the right to an opinion and, since we’re not kids anymore, we should all know that we’re not going to get along with everyone.
We just have to remember that our words online have the same affect as they do in person and if you wouldn’t be bold enough to say it in real life, keep a lid on it!