In another case, parents started a campaign to get rid of a headteacher
after her pupils were shown a slaughtered pig as part of a biology lesson. The
head resigned. Later, the parents decided that they had made a mistake and asked
her to come back.
Which balances nicely with this Charlie Brooker column from last month, satiring the dangers and perils of online 'hateswarms'
Not so long ago, if you wanted to issue a 13-year-old girl with a
blood-curdling death threat, you had to scrawl it on a sheet of paper, wrap it
round a brick, hurl it through her bedroom window, and scarper before her dad
ran out of the front door to beat you insensible with a dustbuster. Now, thanks
to Twitter, hundreds of thousands of people can simultaneously surround her
online screaming abuse until she bursts into tears.
Under the heavy anonymity that the internt can provide, emotive outpourings are accepted and even applauded.
"It is so easy to say negative things through texting and online because you are not
face-to-face with the person you're talking about. Bullies say things and feel
all 'big and bad' because they are at home behind a computer, or on a phone, and
aren't there to see the ramifications or the impact that it has on the other
Some groups are trying to reform as it has become apparent that firstly, no-one is really anonymous on the internet and secondly; standard human behaviour, including the social unacceptibility of victimising individual, especially on a medium that carries so much promise of freedom and equality (theoretically) made the transition to the internet as well. CollegeACB was one of these units and YouTube now has strict guidance concerning cyber-bullying. CollegeACB was a US site that degraded into toxic rimour slinging, it's now trying to reform itself into a respectful social networking platform.
It's quite a concerning future. I'm quite sure that I was the last generation of internet users to avoid social networking abuse. During the prime bullying years (11-16) my only social internet use was MSN Messenger. That kind of direct messenging avoids the bullying psychology; it's direct so there's nowhere to run if you do become abusive and it's private, so there's no-one to impress. Then I reached MySpace, which was dominated by shy, slighly insecure people who didn't feel comfortable in their immediate geographical environment and wanted to reach out to other like-minded people.
But now Facebook dominates the social networking arena and this occupies a different space to MySpace. MySpace was half fantasy, half reality. You built up an image of who you wanted to be or wished you were and projected it digitally, you accepted and sought out only those who admired you or you admired and thus a sort of admiration-osmosis occured with largely positive outcomes. I'm sure I owe part of my confidence as an individual to that positive, if fantasy, environment.
Facebook, limits the individual to their 'real life' heavily, it's hard to parse online identity from real, which is a large part of it's appeal, all the important information about an individual and all their activity is openly laid out, spreadeagle and can provide irrestible bait for those wanting to abuse.
The issue is that teenagers want to be 'included', part of the group. The group gravitates to the strongest personality, the strongest personality is often the most abusive. The obvious option if a victim of cyber-bullying would be to limit or erase online presence, but that only forces the individual further from the group. The only remaining solution is to join the group and to become part of the 'hateswarm.' And this is largely what happens, and so the cyclic nature continues.
The same mentality grows up, gets a twitter account and begins anonymously hounding strangers on more open channels. The internet becomes the school playground for fully-formed adults.
When I was at school, I was lightly peppered with bullying incidents. One particularly stubborn assailant, who for the sake of his anonymity I'll call Jam Seffreys, would repeatedly punch me on the arm, flick ink at me, ask me if I was gay or simply approach me and laugh hysterically. I was informed repeatedly, 'Ignore him and he'll go away, he only wants satisfaction.' It never worked, I had to resort to my own wit, which usually resulted in further incidents.
When it comes to cyber-bullying, ignoring does work. Bullying only holds appeal because so many people can see your mastery over others and response to it DOES further it. The internet gives the victim the wonderful ability to be totally non-reactive. Utter silence in the face of abuse is possible.