Post No.: 0896
All genders get bullied, pretty and ugly people get bullied, short and tall people get bullied, studious and slack people get bullied…
And almost anyone can turn into a bully sometimes. Even popular individuals/groups can bully others because it’s about one’s perceived threat from or relative status to others i.e. even those one wouldn’t think need to feel insecure can be quite insecure.
When bullying occurs, sometimes children don’t want to turn to adults for help (and sometimes adults don’t give the best advice in these situations anyway). Children face pressures to not grass/snitch on others too hence the reluctance to report bullying. They don’t want the reputation of betraying a group or being unable to stand up for themselves, which could lead to further abuse and ostracism. (There’s a sense of hypocrisy though because many children find it alright to claim that they’ll get their older sibling or dad to ‘beat someone up’ rather than stand up for themselves!) These pressures need to be understood by teachers, who’ll need to be more attentive in spotting bullying, and to intervene before the victim needs to report it themselves.
For major acts of bullying, people should report it because most of their peers will be on their side – it’ll be reasonably unambiguous that the bully has gone too far and what they did cannot be defended as ‘just a joke’.
Fostering a better school environment and developing social and emotional skills in children is beneficial in the long run. However nowadays, the bullying doesn’t necessarily stop once a child leaves the school gates – they can experience it online and 24/7 via cyberbullying. For instance, bullying can be videoed or photographed then shared on social media with the aim of humiliating the victims.
Like offline, the bystander effect occurs in cyberbullying too when we see online abuse directed at others (e.g. people told to starve themselves or even die) yet we do nothing about it to defend the bullied.
People might write trolling messages online for many reasons. You’re overall best off ignoring them all. But if you can’t, you can deconstruct them. There are those who troll multiple people and they’re just looking for a reaction somewhere to make themselves feel significant. (Most of us just want to feel like we make an impact on others, but we should only reward positive, not negative, impacts with our attention.) You don’t need to worry about these because they’re not here to give constructive feedback. They speak about the authors, not you. There are those who feel genuinely frustrated about you for some reason but they’re asking for too much. You can, in your own mind, wish them well but you don’t owe them anything. There are those who give constructive feedback in a reasonable tone. You can listen to and take onboard their feedback if it’s valid, and thank them, in your own mind. And there are other types – and for each one you can deconstruct whether they don’t mean well (whom you can ignore) or do (whom you can listen to then move on).
You can ignore the bots (although they can be hard to spot) and report those who sound dangerous. The rest are just people with their own problems that they’re displacing onto you, or they may have their own desires to shape you into how they’d prefer you to be. You can be outward-looking and analyse the type of people they are and what their messages say about them, rather than inward-looking and focused on what they’re apparently saying about you. The general advice when you come across online trolls is to ‘not feed them’ i.e. don’t respond to them.
Some contest this advice however because a risk is the escalation from a troll to capture your attention. Yet if you mute or block them then they can’t be heard no matter how loud they attempt to bark at you, as it were. Report them to the social media platform. It therefore doesn’t mean suck it up and don’t complain – but to complain to those who could (and really ought to) make a difference. This also doesn’t mean it’s the victim’s fault for feeling abused if they cannot manage to mentally brush off the bullying or threats – it means that the social media platforms must take more responsibility to protect their users through moderation and by handling complaints fairly. If you do respond then certainly don’t respond with high emotions. Don’t try to put out fires with petrol i.e. don’t fight anger with anger. Humour might work, as long as you’re not abusive yourself. Expressing empathy and kindness might work if the other person is angry because they’re genuinely frightened or confused rather than seeking power and control. For those who seek the latter, you cannot reason with them because they’re not looking for reason but to coerce you by trying to make you react emotionally one way or another.
If you’re a professional then you must stay professional because your other customers might read how you respond. You also don’t want to assume that everybody who’s inflammatory is a troll instead of a truly dissatisfied customer either.
Remember that opinions, lies and misunderstandings will only speak the truth about the bearer of those views because they’re not objective facts. Obviously you don’t want your name to be besmirched but any lies or misunderstandings can be calmly corrected or there are legal routes to clear your furry name.
We do have great trouble discerning opinions from facts though, and we’re manifestly unaware of our misunderstandings otherwise they wouldn’t be misunderstandings. Whenever we criticise another person’s political arguments, it reveals our own political position. If we make harsh comments about how someone else looks, it only truly reveals our own shallowness. If we consider someone else ‘weird’ then it’s us who needs more education – it’s just like pointing at an animal and calling it strange and scary with its long, thin tongue, when, if one were more educated, one would recognise that it’s just an aardvark(!) Even the facts we decide to share can reveal our biases because they could be cherry-picked and incomplete (e.g. if a Nigerian person commits a crime, then stressing that they were Nigerian is a fact, but if one decides not to make a big deal about the nationality of an English person committing an identical crime then it may reveal a bias about us).
Overall, social media platforms must be more attentive and proactive against cyberbullying, and neutrals/bystanders should stand up and be more supportive for any victims if they witness cyberbullying.
…Antisocial behaviours can be groupist in nature. ‘Tragedy chanting’ against other teams in sports (e.g. mocking other cities for being impoverished or other clubs for losing many fans after a stadium disaster) is just another expression of tribalism and trying to put others down when one cannot lift oneself up.
People naturally want to be a part of the ‘better/winner team’, not the ‘worse/loser team’. Status is relative. So when one considers that one could be low in status – to feel relatively better about oneself – one might try to mock others whom (one perceives) are even worse off, hence poor can sometimes mock poorer for instance. People’s frustrations can be displaced onto whom they hope are even softer targets. But if they truly wanted to improve their own prospects, the poor should stop the infighting and tackle the systemic issues that blight them all. Some people who get bullied for being an ethnic minority have likewise tried to bully members of other ethnic minorities. This could be a part of the strategy of ‘defensive othering’ (read Post No.: 0874). Although rare, there have also been cases of people who’ve spouted homophobic sentiments who’ve later come out as homosexual themselves; perhaps because they believed they had ought to publicly take that homophobic stance as the socially-accepted norm in their culture, as they tried to suppress their own homosexual feelings?
Regarding groupist alliances and physical violence – members of street gangs tend to be mobile (they often move from place to place), have fatalistic attitudes (think they’re going to die young), are jack of all street trades and master of none (a bit of drug dealing, a bit of car thieving, etc.), have antipathy towards formal systems of social control or support (the police, nurses, anyone with a uniform) and are obsessed with reputation (sensitive to any slight or attack on their reputation).
Socio-economic factors like poverty and living amongst rundown infrastructure are antecedent conditions – these don’t in themselves cause gang violence but contribute as an environmental stressor that make a subset of citizens more susceptible to engaging in particular deviant behaviours that may then lead to being criminal. Those deviant behaviours, or instigating conditions, include drug-taking, truancy, alcohol abuse, prostitutes, not staying in their parents’ home and/or not doing all the things that’ll help their future prospects. Not all of these activities are illegal but they’re deviant and will put them on track for not being successful later in life.
A further subset of citizens will actively pursue a gang/street life, which involves conspicuous consumption and illicit crimes. And this creates a cycle because the money and drugs to feed this consumption eventually depletes, thus predatory behaviours and crime are conducted to fund it, and so forth (e.g. they’re taking drugs and constantly partying, but aren’t working because they cannot secure/find regular jobs, so they fund their consumption via petty or more organised crimes).
Gang violence spreads when offenders prey on other offenders since they each have the cash and drugs they each want, and this perpetuates through retaliations and revenge because no gang wants to appear like they can be pushed out of their turf easily. Or they may attack third-party gangs in order to recover their losses from them instead, and thus escalate and expand the violence onto ever increasing circles of groups.
So it often starts off impersonal as it’s just about the money and/or drugs, but then gangs form grudges and rivalries. Clashes can also flare due to petty slights, perceived disrespect, saving face and intimidation. And for whatever reason why gangs conflict – when they do – they also tend to bring in their friends or family in order to form a more intimidating group against their opposition, thus bring ever more and more people into the hostilities.
Gangs sometimes do prey on non-offenders/ordinary civilians but these people don’t tend to retaliate to perpetuate the violence. (If genuine local neighbourhood yobs know where you live then confronting them could goad them to pick on your property even more when you’re asleep, hence this isn’t streetwise. You won’t have scared them off. So don’t paint a target on your back. Don’t show off with your wealth either.)
So it’s mainly this predatory behaviour against other gangs. These gangs aren’t going to call the police either. This constant retaliation and counter-retaliation, involving more allies to make one’s gang seem more formidable, and stealing from members of third-party gangs – makes street crime more like a contagion. A small percentage of people can cause so many problems for everyone in a neighbourhood.
Violence is like a disease, infecting others through revenge, which means that effective interventions may need to tackle gang violence with a public health approach – with primary interventions (prevention at the root before things get trapped in a vicious cycle) and secondary interventions (intervening when violence occurs and preventing things from flowing further downstream).
Some European countries have implemented schemes that allow members of gangs access to the legal justice system – they won’t get their drugs back but the police will investigate the crimes and arrest people so that they won’t need to take the law into their own hands.
Gangs rely on physical cash because these transactions are untraceable, or on cryptocurrencies because they’re pseudo-anonymous, hence tackling these opportunities could reduce crime too.