I recently received online abuse for an article that I wrote. This blog post was meant to open the discussion about mental health and about how the way our brains are wired influences our behaviour. Mental health issues should be normalised and by talking about these disorders, the hope is that people will further understand how mental health affects everyday people. I had no intention to feed the trolls but they sure were hungry!
What I found the most interesting was that the people who were quick to bully and order me to remove the post were other therapists or counsellors. What I have learned from this experience is don’t feed the trolls. It is crucial to remember that online trolls are not interested in entering into a reasonable debate.
Online bullies don’t want to debate whether you’re views are legitimate, rather, they wish to gain attention by attacking someone else online. The irony is that these people will accuse you of being an online bully when they are engaging in the exact behaviour that they accuse you of.
Online bullies won’t ever take the measured response of contacting you privately to share their views, instead they will make their feelings known without ever contacting you and they will rally others to support them.
When this happens, you can be certain you are dealing with an online bully.
Don’t feed the trolls
If somebody attacks you for your opinion without valid reasoning the best thing you can do is block them. Ignore online trolls and do not respond to them, don’t waste your time. Report them if necessary and then block them. These people are not interested in reasoning they are interested in drama.
What to do when you are bullied online
- Resist the urge to respond
- Block them immediately
- Switch off app notifications on your phone
- Do not post that you are being targeted
- Get space from social media – show yourself some compassion
If the above doesn’t work and the abuse continues, take screenshots of the abuse and contact anti-hate campaigns. If you are receiving death threats or threats of harm contact the police.
Social media companies need to work better with anti-hate experts and mental health organisations, to “fundamentally rethink how they adjust their systems to deal with existing and emerging troll tactics”.
The psychology of online bullies
Online bullies are often unhappy people. They have issues and they project this inner misery in an attempt to feel better about themselves. Research has also found that online bullies often have mental health issues themselves.
The definition of bullying – a targeted approach to shame or humiliate an individual in an attempt to feel personal satisfaction.
It has been scientifically proven ( Ditch the Label study, ) that the reason people get bullied is never, contrary to popular belief, because of the unique characteristics of the person experiencing the bullying. So, why do people bully? It has everything to do with the person doing the bullying.
Trauma and stress
Bullies are more likely to have suffered stress or trauma in the previous years before the bullying. Some of us engage in positive behaviours – we meditate, read, listen to music, engage in self-reflection etc whilst others deal with trauma in negative ways. Examples: bullying, violence and alcohol abuse, which temporarily mask the issues but usually make them worse in the long-term.
The research shows that some people simply do not know how to positively respond to stress and so default to bullying others as a coping mechanism.
Bullies tend to have a low opinion of themselves. They deflect negative attention away from themselves onto others. There may be elements of jealousy or they may feel inferior and this can trigger bullying behaviour too. We can all make mistakes and we may bully without realising it but a pattern of bullying shows a lack of insight.
Stay safe online
Learning how to keep yourself safe online is so important in order to preserve your mental health. If the bully regularly bullies, with enough people reporting them they may end up being banned from social media platforms permanently.