It is as a teenager that we face the greatest test of self-esteem. We become aware of how we look, how others see us and worst of all we become aware of a world that judges us. From every angle teens are told to be prettier, sexier, skinnier, to wax, to colour and to fake it. Very few talk about anything other than they we look.
It appears that hating Taylor Swift is one of the internet's favourite hobbies. Just Google her name and you're hit with a virtual tsunami of fierce hatred... But here's the thing. Hatred for Taylor Swift seems entirely arbitrary. Nobody appears able to properly justify trolling her, or disliking her. Substitute any other young pop star into any of the above-described scenarios and the public reaction would have been completely different.
Cyberbullying presents a vicious circle for educators and parents who are often cutout of the process without even the knowledge of the bullying taking place. Traditional bullying is far easier for parents and educators to intervene in. Educating students and parents alike about the dangers of Internet usage and ensuring the lines of dialogue and support remain open must be a top priority for educators as part of their pedagogic duty.
Caroline Criado-Perez began receiving a barrage of online abuse after the Bank of England announced Jane Austen would feature on the next £10 note. These bizarre and extremely aggressive reactions to her have so far been explained as uncovering a previously suppressed widespread hatred of women. We think the psychology of her predicament is more complex, hinging upon what success represents to the envious and, particularly, those with low self-esteem.
On the issue of bullying, social media allowed bullies to change tactics, and with less risk involved. Psychological bullying came to the forefront, with Facebook Groups, pages and live chats all available for vulnerable kids to be targeted. Parents wrote social media off as a "fad" or a "trend" and the majority of them - through no fault of their own - left their kids to it.
Something I kept coming across in my research was the at-first-surprising notion that many young people don't consider cyber-bullying to be bullying. They know what bullying is - or rather, they know what some bullying activities are - and they know that stuff can happen online, but they don't always see that as bullying. Why?
Recently the town I went to school in as a child has seen a Spotted page arise and within a few days the page itself has thousands of likes and is updated regularly. Like Foucault's metaphor of the Panopticon, the page acts as a high place looking down upon the people casting judgement hither and thither from the position of power that anonymity brings.
Clearly we as society, policymakers and website service providers need to consider how we can do more to ensure less people become victims of online abuse, commit suicide, have "bad internet experiences," are forced to move from school to school, home to home, and are even afraid to use the internet.