What do you do if you are a victim of cyberbullying? In the military community, Facebook groups can be very useful. Many military spouses head to Facebook to find local groups before PCSing to learn about their new areas and ask questions. We seek virtual connections with people going through similar things in life, and Facebook groups are a great way to experience community. But, as we have learned, they can also be places of hurt and hate. When we see a hurtful comment on a post, instinct may tell us to look the other way. But what if the hurtful comment is in response to you?
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
Cyberbullying is when a person shares negative comments directed to you or about you that cause harm or embarrassment. Sometimes these comments share private information, other times the comments can be threatening. There is a wide range of comments that can be considered cyberbullying—but no matter the specifics, being the victim of cyberbullying is often stressful, hurtful, and can feel very shocking.
If you are a victim of cyberbullying, it is important to think about two things: first, practical steps to take to address the situation, and second, mental and emotional steps to take to make sure you are taking care of yourself after facing cyberbullying.
3 PRACTICAL STEPS TO ADDRESS CYBERBULLYING
Here are some practical steps to take if you are the object of hurtful or threatening comments online:
As challenging as this may be, do not respond to the hurtful comments. Ignore as much as possible because confronting the other person will likely only heighten tensions.
Keep a record. Take a screenshot of the comments and save them for your own protection.
Block the person and report them to a group admin. Doing this will protect you and others.
3 WAYS TO FOCUS ON YOUR WELLNESS AFTER EXPERIENCING CYBERBULLYING
If you are a victim of cyberbullying, you will likely feel some negative emotions. Verbal attacks, even if they are virtual, are painful to experience. It is important that you take care of yourself. Here are some ways you can focus on your wellness:
Share your experience with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, therapist, counselor, or chaplain. Verbalizing the comments you experienced from cyberbullying takes their power away. Allow your circle of support to build you up.
Remind yourself of who you are. You are not defined by negative comments made online about you or against you! Consider journaling or finding another outlet that grounds you.
Try a meditation that radiates love to yourself, those you love, and the person who wrote negative comments towards you online. This is called loving-kindness meditation. Begin in a comfortable, seated position with your eyes closed or your gaze lowered. Place both hands on your heart.
Repeat, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be at peace.” If you have a hard time being kind to yourself, imagine that you’re speaking to the child version of yourself.
Bring to mind someone that is easy to love. Repeat, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be at peace.”
Bring to mind someone that you feel neutral about and don’t know well— maybe the bagger at the Commissary, or somebody you saw in the neighborhood. Repeat, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be at peace.”
Bring to mind the bully. Repeat, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be at peace.”
Remember, just because someone said something about you, and others may have seen it, that doesn’t make it true. Reach out for help and support and know that although there is bullying in every community, including the military community, there are also many wonderful people who you can turn to for assistance.
Ali Taylor is an Air Force spouse, mom of one, and educator. She is a program assistant at InDependent. Her passions include building community with others, traveling, and spending as much time as possible with her immediate and extended family. She holds a BA in Humanities for Teaching and a MEd in Education Policy. When she is not teaching, playing with her little one, or volunteering with InDependent, she can be found exploring outside or on a yoga mat.