The media spotlight is shining it's fleeting beam onto the subject of online bullying once again.
A recent release of Police information shows an increase in the number of investigations carried out into perpetrators of cyber abuse.
It's hard to fathom why some people behave the way they do on the internet.
There can be no doubt that when history casts it's eye back in hindsight, this era will be most remembered for the dawning of the internet and all of the changes to people's lives that has generated. So many live their lives out online these days it's hard to find a tangible distinction between physical and cyber reality, and one wonders how that immersion will develop moving forward.
So as we wander around city centres glued to the screens on our smart phones, and seemingly avoiding actual real life contact, just what affect is this cyber existence having on our society?
The internet age provides a level of convenience which makes us an inpatient bunch, Information can be found in a split second, as can the order of even the most specific of requirements.
I can vividly remember as a child being taken to the shops and routinely hustled from one to the next by my mother in an often fruitless hunt for her desires. Nowadays Google et. al provide an immediate conduit to our needs, and I believe this has had an effect on our expectations and patience to a broad degree.
Everything has become instantaneous in nature, abrupt in function, and with less time for the pleasantries of the past.
Probably the most influential aspect of our new Cyber existences is in the interaction we almost all experience via social media.
The names of these online giants are ingrained in our minds now as commonly as the major Supermarkets or fast food chains. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other varieties are places many of us visit daily to interact and share our lives with the World.
A new phenomena of social media is the creation of a circle of friends you have never actually met in person, and the opinions formed about others via the web can be instant, cold and damning in nature.
Social media provides an instant fix to its members. From finding out what your 'real' friends are doing at the weekend to discovering the latest celebrity gossip or what's going on in your neighbours marriage, that instant access is both a benefit and hazard.
In times gone by communication with others was a much more considered affair. If you wanted to communicate with friends the choices were limited to the telephone or writing a letter, and if you wanted to meet new people then you had to get out of your house and into the wider world and mix in the local pubs and bars.
This new level of direct access into the homes of others extends even further with the possibility of 'following' your favourite 'personalities' on networks like Twitter, which then enables you to exchange messages with them from your own home, or sitting around a pool somewhere on the med delivering entry right into their lives.
This instant close up access into all our existence is a phenomena to be handled with care, and with pause for consideration before taking action.
Telling your favourite singer you love their latest song and getting a 'Thanks' back is an amazing feeling, but imagine what happens when this direct access is used to harass people in the most cruel of manners.
I've had this conversation with a variety of people just lately.
Online or 'Cyber' bullying is a by product of our new immediate online realm. Without pause for thought tirades can be launched into against people that in some cases the perpetrator has never even met. On other occasions online connectivity is used to attack people that are known to the assailant, as it provides a non literal platform to do so, and what they don't feel able to orate to a person's face they can type from behind a screen.
From those who have not suffered a campaign of online abuse against them I've often heard the opinion that it's a detached irrelevance. "Just turn it off" or "Don't read it" I hear, and whilst this seems simple common sense, in practice when you are the subject of an attack it can have a devastating effect.
It's worth recalling the blurred lines we have generated between our online and physical lives. These undefined boundaries have allowed our feelings to transfer freely from one realm to the other, the effect of this is that words typed in an instant pop up immediately in front of the intended recipient, and when there is jealousy, control or anger at play, this new found access can become a terrible burden upon those who receive hate.
I'll be the first to put my hand up and say I've experienced being bullied online, and I'll also admit it left me feeling isolated, negative and deeply upset. Whilst the attacker got their fix of control over my emotions I was left weak and susceptible to their further onslaught.
Fortunately I had people close around me I felt able to turn to and share the load, but there are those that his terrible blight leaves feeling isolated and unable to express, and at times the consequence has been catastrophic.
I dearly hope that human beings of all ages learn to self regulate a level of respect and thought toward others and their feelings whilst communicating online, however I also fear that many more people will suffer from this blight until legal regulation forces a change in wider public acceptability.
You can find advice and support regarding online bullying by Visiting www.bullying.co.uk