How to deal with bullies on the internet

I won’t call myself an expert on the internet but I have been online long enough to know what it entails. Like what Bane told Batman: You think darkness is your ally. But I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see light until I am a man.

Likewise, I was born in the internet, moulded by it. I didn’t see broadband until I am a man. =D

I thought this would be a good guide for those who are vulnerable to the harshness of the internet, especially for those who are growing up. So do share this with them if you think it’s helpful. I am also writing this because I just ended a conversation with an abusive anonymous commenter and many more in the past.

These are some 4 common ways cyberbullies try to get to you and some ways to deal with them.

One – Insults

In a way, these insults usually work because there is some truth in them. For example, I was called “fat”. It is okay to just acknowledge it. No one is perfect and we are all works in progress. Accept it, acknowledge it and move on. They are trying to hurt your ego. If you let it go, they have nothing to hurt. Respect that everyone is entitled to their opinion but you don’t have to let them push it too far. Especially when there are real consequences. For example, someone calling me fat is fine personally, but because of my job, it would create the impression that I am not operationally competent. Hence, I have to address that (see below for my response).

You can also invoke some facts to support you if you have, but be careful not to let it come across as a “flex” because it can bite back. In general, steer on the side of humility and humbleness.

Example: Yea bro, totally agree that I am putting on weight. Quite hard to maintain my IPPT gold already!

Two – Bring in your organisation

As a public servant, this is a common technique that people use when they cannot win the argument or feel that they are losing ground. Common techniques used are questioning why you are replying during working hours or devoting your time on social media while on “taxpayer’s” money. If you work for a reputable company then they will try and say things like “ Didn’t know xxx company hires someone like that”. First of all, as public servants, make sure that you do not shoot yourself in the foot by flouting rules. I don’t reply during working hours and I do not share information that I am not allowed to. I also conduct myself professionally at all times. This will give people very little grounds to attack you. Depending on your organisational policy, they may have guidelines on social media interaction, so be familiar with that. Thankfully, if you conduct yourself properly, it usually gives them little ground to advance in this area. For controversial topics, do be cautious when speaking on the internet.

Three – Bring up your past or sensitive details

Once it is on the internet, it is there forever. This is unfortunately the curse of our era. To manage this, I am always prepared that whatever private information or history I have may be exposed. Hence I don’t lie or put information up that I do not want to be public. Don’t trust your privacy setting. Even if it is within your friends list, consider it public the moment you put it online. If it turns out that you have some sensitive past exposed, accept that it is your past and move on. Unfortunately, some people will rake up your history to discredit you but if that happens, accept that you have made mistakes in the past and have now grown beyond that. Thankfully, there are also good internet users who will speak up against these abusers. And lastly, doxing is illegal. Oh, encrypt your sensitive files and practise good cyber hygiene.

Four – Bring matters into the real world

This is dangerous. When someone you offended online decides to stalk you, visit you or harass you in real life, it is time to call the police. Even before that, if they try to intimidate you by making such threats, take action. But before that, make sure that you are capable of protecting yourself and be street smart. Always pay attention to your surroundings and have ways to defend yourself if attacked. I am speaking from personal experience. Generally, Singapore is quite safe.

Two Tips:

Have friends

Sometimes, it helps when you have friends who can support you online and speak up for you. Build that kind of support network and this will help you. But don’t become a bully yourself! Might doesn’t mean right!

Be familiar with the law

There are some things we can say and some things we cannot. Internet bullies can be prosecuted if they go too far. Know your legal means and this will act as a deterrence. Should this escalate, it will also help you win your case if this goes to court, especially when it results in real consequences for you (losing your job, suffering from reputational damage, etc). Fortunately, legal aid is available in Singapore.

In conclusion, many choose not to be vocal or reply because they are afraid or they simply can’t be bothered. These cyber bullies embolden by anonymity and a lack of consequences continues their act. Our younger generation who grow up in this culture thinks it is okay to talk like this and may even think that some of the words are true because no one fights it. I think it is important for us to stand up against these bullies, inflammatory and rude comments, as well as comments reflecting bad morals and values. As you can see, I adopt the SAF model – Deterrence and Diplomacy. But should that fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory. 🙂

I hope this is helpful. Do share your comments below.

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By ben@sgben.com

Hi, I am Benjamin. I am a Singaporean son, born and bred. I came from a modest background, just like most Singaporeans and went to mainstream schools like most middle-class Singaporeans. What makes me different is my unconventional choices and journey in life, giving me a different insight into life. I share my thoughts not because I think I am right but to be corrected if I am wrong. I am not too concerned about who is right but what is right. Drop me a PM or leave a message and I am happy to talk about anything!

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