Unmasking The Dark Side: Explaining Why Cyberbullying Is Harmful

With the rise of the Digital Age comes many benefits, and also many downfalls. And with the advent of the Internet has come a new danger – cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying – the use of electronic means to harass and intimidate an individual – has become a dangerous trend that can have long-term mental health consequences for its victims.

For more on the dangers and the issues involved with cyberbullying, read on.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying – what is it exactly? And how does it differ from traditional forms of bullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of electronics to harass, intimidate, or embarrass a potential victim. This can take several different forms, including, but not limited to:

  • Threatening or harassing emails.
  • Harmful, derogatory, or antagonistic social media posts
  • The spread of digital images – altered or not.
  • The spread of electronic messages and gossip – true or false
  • Damaging or virus-laden messages that can interfere with work or other aspects of life
  • Creating a false profile of the person, leading to incorrect assumptions and damaging their overall reputation.

All of these can be damaging, and there are new methods of cyberbullying becoming available every day.

How Does Cyberbullying Differ From Regular Bullying?

Cyberbullying differs from regular bullying in a few ways.

Less Physical Evidence: 

Cyberbullying leaves less physical evidence behind, and fewer physical traces. With less physical evidence, it can be harder for victims to seek help.

It’s also more difficult for others to step in and give the proper assistance.

More Anonymity: 

Despite the measures that can be taken, the digital realm is fairly anonymous. Screen names, privacy laws, and the lack of control mean that there are several walls that can hide an attacker’s identity.

That anonymity can permit attackers to go much further in their harassment than they might be able to in other circumstances.

The Risk of Viral: 

It’s often said that once something goes onto the internet, it’s there forever. True or not, if an attack goes viral, it can reach thousands, even millions of people.

Depending on the method of the attack, even complete strangers may weigh in – inundating the victim with attacks from ignorant individuals who don’t know what’s really happening.

Long-Term Presence:

How long does something exist in cyberspace? It can be a long time, and it can pop up at the worst times, in the worst places.

Worse, the digital nature makes it difficult to provide proof to counter negative perceptions that others may form after encountering false images or statements that may have been part of cyberbullying.

Effects of Cyberbullying:

The effects of cyberbullying are wide-ranging and can touch on all aspects of a person’s life. Mental, physical, and emotional health can all be damaged.

Mental Health:

Damages to mental health can include:

  • Increased Anxiety – Even the most casual contact with people or electronics can become terrifying.
  • Low Self-Esteem – Victims lose confidence in themselves and sight of their self-worth
  • Depression and Suicidal Thoughts – Relentless persecution can send people into a downward spiral that may turn them suicidal.

Physical Health:

As the mental and emotional pressure increases, it can damage the physical health as well, with effects that include:

  • Ulcers – Constant stress can create severe ulcers or other internal issues
  • Headaches – Stress and tension can cause debilitating headaches, sometimes even migraines.
  • Eating Disorders – Binge eating or skipping meals are common, as comfort-eating or loss of appetite takes its toll.
  • Disrupted Sleeping Patterns – Stress may cause insomnia, or depression may cause extreme lethargy. A person may even bounce between the extremes.

Emotional Health:

Victims of cyberbullying often experience extremes of negative emotions such as:

  • Humiliation – embarrassing images and words can have a huge impact
  • Anger – Rage at being targeted
  • Powerlessness – The inability to stop the attacks, or even identify their attackers
  • Feelings of Isolation – the feeling of being unable to trust that anyone is on their side
  • Emotional Pain – the hurt of being targeted, often for reasons they don’t understand, or no reason at all.
  • Fear – A constant fear of new attacks, or attacks from unexpected sources.

With the anonymous nature of cyberbullying and the constant barrage of cruelty, there is no relief and no guarantee of safety – which can make the situation even worse.

Long-Term Consequences of Cyberbullying:

Victims of cyberbullying can develop many problems that may take years to resolve, and sometimes, they may never fully recover.

Depression can take years to overcome, and long-term therapy or medication to control.

Social Development can be damaged, as anger can lead to violence and aggression, or feelings of isolation can make it hard to form proper connections.

Eating Disorders may take a lifetime of careful management to deal with and may leave behind lasting damage to a person’s health.

And these are just some of the long-term effects cyberbullying can have.

Final Thoughts:

Cyberbullying is a very real, very pervasive, and very damaging aspect of the digital age. The long-term effects can last for years, and make life incredibly painful for the victims.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to help the victims, except to provide help and support and make sure they know they are not alone.