The Familiar Face of a Cyberbully


When we think about cyberbullies, the face that often comes to mind is that of a stranger: this hooded figure, prowling the internet, searching for someone they can attack, belittle, and damage online. They are a faceless, nameless person who believes that by remaining anonymous online, their identity can never be discovered. And even if you were to discover their true identity, it would come as no surprise that the culprit was the mean girl, the egotistical jock, or the school bully.


Unfortunately, this is not the case for many cyberbullying victims. The attacker has a face – one the victim is all too familiar with. According to a 2016 study that was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), “the likelihood of cyberbullying [is] approximately seven times greater between current or former friends and dating partners than between young people who had neither been friends nor had dated.” Your cyberbully could very well be your best friend. While this may be a very hard pill to swallow, the fact that girls were twice as likely as boys to fall victim to cyberbullying, is less shocking.


Diane Felmlee, a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University and the lead author of the study, explains why friends and former partners are so often times the perpetrators of these online attacks and rumors.


“Friends, or former friends, are particularly likely to find themselves in situations in which they are vying for the same school, club, and/or sport positions and social connections…young people often have resentful and hurt feelings as a result of a breakup, and they may take out these feelings on a former partner via cyber aggression.”


Knowing the perpetrator of the attack is someone so close to them can also impact a victim’s decision to come forward and report the bullying. Even more challenging is figuring out how to deal with the situation, as acting out in retaliation is exactly what the bullying is looking for from you. As is with any case of bullying, friend or foe, the best and hardest thing for the victim to do is walk away – not just from the attacks and the rumors, but from the relationship as a whole.


In the 2011 ABC Family movie “Cyberbully,” the main character Taylor, played by actress Emily Osment, learns this lesson the hard way. In the film, Taylor is terrorized by her classmates’ constant horrible comments, all of which were sparked by one rumor started by a boy Taylor met online. It is later revealed that Taylor’s best friend Samantha, played by Kay Panabaker, created the boy’s fake profile and started the rumor.


When you pull the cord to reveal the person behind the curtain, be prepared for who you might find. If you or someone you know is a victim of cyberbullying, or someone you know is the perpetrator, please tell a trusted adult.


Published by GetnSocial

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