We live in a society exquisitely dependent on technology. Our world's very different to how it was not that long ago with the internet such a big player.
Thanks to technology users cyber-bullying has become so prevalent with the rapid acceleration of social media use through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Youtube... that it is a rare internet user community indeed that goes untouched.
On the one hand thanks to the internet, we can instantly communicate across the world, yet the internet has not taught us that faceless and nameless entities too must take full responsibility and be accountable for everything said. Nor has it insisted that they cannot cross the lines that would otherwise not be allowed to cross in our analogue world.
With all its technological advances is it possible that in the words of H.D Thoreau "Men have become the tools of their tools." Experience has been showing us that as our technological powers increase, the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.
The internet and social media, our modern day technological creations, have left us with a danger that if we continue to develop them without applying our wisdom in HOW we use it, that which is meant to serve and support us may prove to be a major hindrance. It is questionable if this modern day invention has yet lightened the day's toil of human beings.
Take for instance people like Mark Zuckerberg or the Google guys considered by some (many?) technological virtuosos, yet at the same time these very sites are platforms to some of the most prolific and vitriolic human on human abuse. So how truly prodigious or evolutionary are their creations?!
Just one example where technology can be our best friend yet equally our worse nemesis. Social media should not be about the exploitation of technology but has the potential to be utilised for true service to Community and Humanity.
There's an interesting phenomenon where the moment the word Bullying hits our hearing mechanism, the images that are conjured up are those of school playgrounds; teens and pre teens sticking nasty notes on their target's back, name calling, hair pulling, ugly rumours spreading... at worst perhaps a bloody nose or self-harmed wrists caved in under a child's struggle to stand up for themselves in the face of an ugly force.
So when Bullying enters the Cyber space for some (in)'convenient' reason, these same connotations and images make their wireless way into our constrained consciousness, yet our protagonists, by and large are not your spot ridden pubescent.
Cyber Abuse is no Kids' Game
But it is these, in our irresponsible minds, almost 'innocent' 'casual' 'child-like' images that furnish Cyber Bullying with that same school-ish, naughty undertone, undermining the unmitigated seriousness of these deplorable acts.
This makes school bullying no lesser than cyber bullying - both being one and the same - ABUSE, charting high on the harm scale.
However, for as long as the spotlight remains on the word 'bullying' by very virtue of its name, typically associated with children, we lose sight and remain in the dark about the true meaning the word bullying carries - A B U S E.
Stand out organisations like 'All Rise Say No to Cyber Abuse' not-for-profit organisation, feel strongly about the importance of change in our game of semantics, taking an uncompromising stance to re-define cyberbullying, cyber trolling and cyber stalking as what they truly are; CYBER ABUSE so that the expression reflects the reality of the true state and depth of harm being inflicted.
Speaking with Andrea Weckerle of CivilNation who researches the quality of expression on countless sites, and often finds it very difficult doing so because it exposes her to the worst of Humanity, is continually flabbergasted when people say cyber abuse is not such a big problem amongst adults.
"You can go on so many sites and see the vitriol, the hatred, the intentional cruelty that people would try to reflect onto others and see how far they can go. I have a hard time believing that anyone who is emotionally well balanced and has even an average compassion would engage in cyber abuse behaviour. It really makes one wonder if people who engage in cyber abuse have some personality disorder."
Ms Weckerle exposes how people are sympathetic to minors, but that adults should be fine because it's just words. "I think that's just such a silly, ignorant statement to make because everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of cyber abuse would disagree."
"Cyber Abuse is not a child's play, not something to simply shake off."
She also observes that abuse is definitely getting worse because more people are on line, more interactions, more disagreements and more opportunities to abuse. The attacks are rarely even fact based - purely visceral saying let me hit somebody as hard as I can, be as insulting as I can, in an area that I think the target might be most vulnerable.
And even though there has been a growing awareness about the severity of cyber abuse, it is not sufficiently enough for us to universally be willing to take action against it yet...bystanding is still the order of the day.
"Sadly even a lot of legislators do not truly understand what it's like to be cyber abused unless someone close to them is affected. While they may be well meaning and saying we have all anti harassment laws on the books they don't truly understand that this is a totally different animal online."
Ms Weckerle concludes that we do need to give people the opportunity to express but most reasonable people CAN agree as to what the outer limits are. If somebody engages in a concerted campaign, brings their followers in and continually tries to ruin another person on line, that should NOT be acceptable or allowed.
Please fill in this 2 min Global Cyber Abuse Survey