Cyberbullying: A Social Dysfunction

We are a social species. We need social interaction not to survive, but to thrive. With a relatively young “world wide web” of social media, it plays an enormous role in the lives of teens on a daily basis. The internet has become an escape for a teen, but there is a feeling of no escape when the teen is faced with a cyberbully. The cyberbully sucks his/her victim in and it is a relentless grip on the victims’ psyche.

Fifteen year old Audrie Pott of Saratoga, California, committed suicide after she had been cyberbullied. She was a victim of sexual assault by teens who had taken her picture and maliciously published them online for the potential of millions of viewers. She is just one of hundreds of teens who have committed suicide over the past several years because of cyberbullying. In years prior to social media, the sexual assault would not be re-lived with pictures spread to millions and would have only been commented by those closest to the victim. Social media during the teen years is a common aspect of regular social connections in the teens’ daily life in the current Information Age of Technology.

Teen bullies have roamed the school halls for decades before the internet existed and will likely continue for decades to come. Victims of bullying remember the pain and humiliation experienced well into adulthood. The teen years are formidable in socialization between others rather than alongside others and a deeper feeling of connection to those around. When the teen experiences a blow to that connection, the ability to get that back seems ominous.

Because the frontal lobe is not fully formed as a teen, they lack the ability to persevere. Their minds are focused on the here and now. If the here and now is difficult for the teen, they perceive it will last forever. Social media plays a hand in causing the here and now to last eternity on the internet. A picture shared by a teen can be seen and commented on by millions leaving a
greater sense of the never-ending perception of the here and now. Therefore, leaves the victim hopeless for ever renewing his/her reputation, character, sense of self, or ability to acquire new relationships void of the online damage.

In the social sense, the victim, in this case, is persecuted because it is perceved by others that she asked for victimization. To a complete stranger (cyberbully bystanders), the victim is nothing more than a person deserved of the unwanted attention and cyberbullying. It is a never-ending cycle of victim blaming and re-victimization that takes a psychological toll on the teen.

To understand how a teen could commit suicide over what happens online, it is important to study the cyberbully’s motive and the psychological effect of the victim. The cyberbully’s motive may only be to try to humiliate the victim, but the force of the cyberbully bystanders can be the greatest effect on the victim, either pulling them back up or pushing them over the edge.

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