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Cyberstalkers, Online Trolls, and Internet Bullies, Oh My!

“So, whoever is trying to intimidate those of us who write for the public as journalists, columnists or bloggers, understand that you will never break us. We are intrepid and we cherish our freedom of speech above all else.” – Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT

 

Definition of a Cyberbully:  (noun) An unsavory individual who uses electronic communication (i.e. social media, email, text messaging, voicemail, personal messaging) to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening manner.

Definition of Online Troll:  In Internet slang, a troll (/trltrɒl/) is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive,[1]extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroupforumchat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses[2] and normalizing tangential discussion,[3] whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain (Wikipedia).  Trolling is typically executed by individuals who exhibit narcissistic, sadistic or psychopathic tendencies (Buckels et al., 2014).  Trolls also disseminate false information and defamatory, false reviews.

Dorothy, We Aren’t In Kansas Anymore! 

The Internet Age is a double-edged sword, for the reasons above. And in trying, heated political times, an increase in cyberbullying continues, often inflamed and encouraged by a specific orange leader that shall remain nameless (Dowd, 2018). Certainly social justice advocates and mental health professionals (myself included)  who blog, write, and denounce fascist and traumatizing agendas have also been the target of internet trolls and cyberbullies.

This is an unprecedented time in the history of the U.S., and frankly, as a licensed clinical social worker, I am thoroughly appalled with what I see occurring overtly on public television (belittling specific populations of people, dismantling international relations, gaslighting the American people through Twitter, the list goes on and on). Bullying behavior by leaders of nations encourages the cockroaches to come out of the woodwork.

As an aside, we also see a growing number of adolescents who have rising incidents of depressive and anxiety episodes due to internet cyberbullies and trolls. In fact, sadly, some teenagers have actually committed suicide because of online bullying (Walker, 2018).  Enough is enough.

So What Do We Do? 

  1. Firstly, if you are the target of a cyberbully or internet troll, document the evidence in the event you need to take legal action. You may need to consult an attorney to draft a cease and desist order or restraining order. Internet trolling and cyberbullying is considered harassment.  You have legal recourse. If you are a minor, you need to share the bullying incident(s) with a trusted adult so that the authorities can properly consequent the offender. If you are threatened in any way, call 911 or your local police department.
  2. Seek counseling. Being harassed online (or in person) is deeply disturbing and shakes a person’s sense of safety. And for good reason: as mentioned above, most internet trolls are personality disordered, unstable people who hide behind the veil of anonymity that the internet offers, so they feel entitled and encouraged to wreak havoc on their targets.
  3. Block the harasser/troll/cyberbully on all forms of social media/email/phone/etc.
  4. If you are a blogger/writer, keep blogging/writing!! We must not be silenced!! Trolls and bullies like the power to silence and frighten people into submission. Fight the urge to hide under a rock (although tempting), and keep blogging/writing about your cause! People depend on you to disseminate truthful, informative facts that dismantle any sense of cognitive dissonance that is floating around. Practice your right to free speech.
  5. Process your concerns with trusted colleagues, family, friends, counselors or therapists, professional associations. Know that you are not alone.
  6. Eventually, most cyberbullies slither away under their own rock or find another target. Don’t feed the animals, they say, at the zoo. Don’t feed the bully by responding to their incendiary comment(s). Their wounded little egos just want a reaction and the empowerment of knowing they pissed you off. Don’t give them that pleasure.
  7. Work to pressure big platforms like Yelp, Google, Amazon, and other megoliths to have a No-Tolerance Policy for cyberbullying. We need laws in place that do not enable these predators to continue to behave in defamatory, libelous, abusive, repulsive ways. Check out : stopbullying.gov, https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/cyber-bullying.html, https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-laws
  8. Bottom line: Take care of yourself. If that means taking an electronic break for a while, do it. But then return to your work (whether writing or whatever passion you have).  ……..Cyberbullies, we are watching you. We may not respond to your ridiculous. But know that eventually you will get caught. Karma will catch up with you. You are forewarned.

 

 

 

Buckels, Erin E., Paul D. Trapnell, and Delroy L. Paulhus. “Trolls just want to have fun.” Personality and Individual Differences67 (2014): 97-102.

Retrieved from: Dowd, Maureen (2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/opinion/sunday/trump-twitter-social-media.html

Retrieved from: Malchiodi, Cathy (2018)https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201810/why-i-write

Retrieved from: (October, 21, 2018) https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/behaviour/bullying/about-cyberbullying

Retrieved from: Hartwell-Walker, Marie (October 21, 2018) https://psychcentral.com/lib/cyberbullying-and-teen-suicide/

Cyberstalkers, Online Trolls, and Internet Bullies, Oh My!

Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW

Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Los Angeles, CA. She provides psychotherapy for individuals experiencing trauma and loss (ranging from women's reproductive mental health to recovery from toxic relationships in love/work/family, from special needs parenting to grief work). She is also a writer, educator, and podcaster. Website:

http://www.andreaschneiderlcsw.com/


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APA Reference
Schneider, A. (2018). Cyberstalkers, Online Trolls, and Internet Bullies, Oh My!. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 19, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2018/10/cyberstalkers-online-trolls-and-internet-bullies-oh-my/

 

Last updated: 22 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Oct 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.