Are we a Nation of Narcissists?
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Is your teen being cyberbullied; or are they the bully?

The anonymity of the internet allows teen users to try on multiple roles and experiment with their identity without the perceived or real negative evaluations of others.  Research in 2005 showed 24% of teens polled admitted to pretending to be different people online, which can be both positive and negative.  On the one hand, a teen can search to discover who he/she really is, and on the other it can also lead to “meeting” people online who may not have purely honourable intentions, and it can lead to an increase in bullying behaviours.  In fact, 39% of respondents in a 2001 report admitted to playing a trick on someone or pretending to be someone else when using instant messaging, and 17% admitted they pretended to be someone else so, “I can act mean to people and not get into trouble”.  In Australia, 13% of students experience cyberbullying by age eight; 25% know somebody who has experienced cyberbullying, and 42% of girls aged 12-15 experience cyberbullying. Here’s some more up to date states of cyberbullying in Australia.

What are the causes of cyberbullying?

The cyberbullying epidemic has the global attention of countries and their governments.  In fact, the new breed of bullies is narcissistic and they treat the internet as their own personal stage, with an audience of thousands.  Narcissists’ aggressive reactions when combined with the anonymity of the internet, can provide a forum for them to become cyberbullies.  For example, a narcissist who has received negative feedback at work or school is more likely than a non-narcissist to react with aggressive online behaviour, and act antagonistically toward the person who provoked him, or even towards an innocent co-worker or classmate in a forum which will allow his aggression to be anonymous.

Trolls and their nasty behaviours

“Trolls” on social media are an increasing phenomenon.  Like their mythological counterparts, internet trolls are nasty creatures who are attention-seekers; their goal is to wreak online havoc for the purpose of ‘fun’.  Internet trolls thrive on weakness, naiveté either real or imagined, and also feast off the emotional reactions of their victims by insulting, upsetting, shocking and provoking users.  Trolls and their kind have a code of irresponsibility, and aside from disrupting online communities, have been known to hack into social media profiles and perform pranks.  An example of this is when a troll hacked a MySpace memorial page of Mitchell, a teen who had committed suicide.  The troll replaced the boy’s face with the face of a zombie, then posted the victim’s face onto hard-core porn scenes, made videos re-enacting the boy’s death and made prank phone calls to the boy’s parents with greetings such as, “Hi, this is Mitchell, I’m at the cemetery”.  This online behaviour probably wouldn’t happen if the perpetrators had to deliver their messages in person—evidence again of the ways in which social media is enabling disturbing behaviour in its users.  The technology reduces any social barriers and this behaviour, under the guise of fun, exists only under the conditions of distance and anonymity.

My take:  Trolls are cowards

Because trolls delight in reaction, ignoring them is the best way to disempower them and the acronym DNFT on social networking sites, stands for “Do not feed the trolls” meaning do not engage in dialogue to give them further ammunition.  Engaging with trolls by defending yourself can be counterintuitive.

Let me know what you think. How have you handled trolls in the past?