What Makes Someone A Bully?On-line life is very similar to real life. All the types of people we meet in real life are to be found on line too. One type that finds virtual reality particularly liberating is the Bully.
Bullies exist in real life too - but as they grow older, they can become less obvious. Their bullying is often confined to those over whom they have some power - family members, employees, colleagues or those receiving their "services".
What a boon the Internet is for Bullies! A forum in which they can give full rein to their bullying and still remain anonymous! No wonder we see behaviour on Internet sites that is unacceptable in "real life".
Many of these Bullies would not want those who know them in real life to see them as Bullies - so they curb these instincts when dealing with their real life associates. Being anonymous gives them freedom to express their bullying without facing any of the normal consequences that would result from such behaviour in every day life.
And they have all sorts of justifications for their behaviour on line. "It's the Internet!" they claim - as if the fact that the Net is largely anonymous gives them "permission" to abuse others. "I tell it like it is" is another claim used to excuse bullying. Rubbish! You can "tell it like it is" by being straight forward, honest and up-front. It does not require the extra element of abuse to make it "real".
So, what makes a person a Bully?
All of us are affected by what other people think of us - particularly those people we are close to and people who matter to us. Our sense of "self" is defined to a large extent by how we think others see us. As we mature, this dependence on the opinion of others gradually becomes less important as we become more confident in our knowledge and understanding of our authentic "selves". If our sense of self remains under-developed, we are very seriously affected by what others think. This is described (in Bowen Theory) as being "poorly differentiated".
In other words, we cannot properly differentiate ourselves from others and their opinions of us. The "well differentiated" person, on the other hand, is less vulnerable to being "one of the crowd". S/he thinks for him/herself; makes decisions ba
The first type of poorly differentiated people are those who are naturally anxious about what others think of them. They often change their behaviour and their thinking to "fit in" with the group. Sometimes they are called "chameleons" because they are easily influenced by "group think". They agree to ideas, behaviours or beliefs in order to be approved of by others.
We see this behaviour in teenagers who are very vulnerable to peer group pressure. They have not yet developed sufficient knowledge of themselves or self confidence to assert their own positions without fearing the disagreement of others.
Bullies are the second type of poorly differentiated people. They depend on approval and acceptance as much as chameleons, but they push others to agree with them, rather than agreeing with others.
S/he pretends to be a "rebel" or "unique" or a "leader" by NOT conforming to others ideas or opinions. But they are as threatened by disagreement with them as are chameleons - they simply go about trying to obtain concensus in a different way.
The upshot of this is that if someone says (does, etc.) something with which they do not agree, they resort to bullying tactics to try and "convert" that person to their way of thinking. And Bullies are not interested in genuinely changing people's minds. They are only interested in threatening, abusing, criticising or ridiculing the person.
And it often works! There are sufficient chameleons around who feel threatened by disagreement and who are made highly anxious by any contradiction to their viewpoint. These people will often "cave" at the first attack of a Bully. This may be done by changing their initial position so as to now agree with the Bully. Or it can be done by withdrawing from the arena entirely, so they don't have to deal with the Bully.
In an online community, those that withdraw are the ones who never post again. They retire hurt because the Bully has attacked their sense of self.
There are also people who become Bully "groupies". Although they have not actually crossed the Bully themselves, they are fearful of doing so. Hence they behave in sycophantic ways, aligning themselves with the Bully.
Still others remain aloof from the bullying behaviour - not acknowledging it but also not attempting to interrupt it or call a halt to it.
When Bullies encounter those who are not persuaded by their bullying tactics, they become enraged! Unable to deal with the fact that their opinions (behaviours, etc) are not receiving universal acclaim, they redouble their bullying efforts. Abuse escalates and personal attacks become increasingly vitriolic. When the Bully is "called" on his/her bullying, their outrage knows no limits.
Bullies resort to a variety of ways in which to attack those they see as "opposing" them. Traditionally they rely on personal abuse and on ridiculing their targets on every possible occasion. There is no place for truth, honesty or realism in this abuse - the more outrageous it is, the more whole-heartedly they embrace it. Paradoxically, they often "call" their targets on issues such as honesty and principles.
Bullies defend their positions with a range of ridiculous tactics too. A common one is that they are "being honest". It seems to be beyond their understanding that other people can "be honest" without resorting to personal attack! Sometimes they use that awful old chestnut "Can't you take a joke?". Bullying is about as UN-funny as domestic violence - but these people don't get that.
So what can we do about Bullies on EP? Their behaviour spoils the EP experience for many people. Their behaviour is unwarranted, unacceptable and untenable.
Things NOT to do:
Do not agree with them to keep the peace.
Do not stop posting to avoid their attacks.
Do not become a "Bully Groupie" so you won't become a target of their's.
Don't ignore their bullying and hope to avoid becoming involved.
Do not sit by and do nothing.
Things TO DO:
If you are willing to do so, call them on their behaviour. Remember that "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and good women) to do nothing."
If you are reluctant to get involved, FLAG the Bully to EP.
Avoid being a bully yourself. You can be forthright and assertive without being abusive or attacking someone personally.
Accept that others will not always agree with you or see eye-to-eye with you - and it does NOT matter! It doesn't make either of you "right" or "wrong" - it simply means you have a difference of opinion.
Whilst all of us may occasionally post something thoughtless or ill-considered, that does not make us Bullies. A Bully is someone whose behaviour is consistently abusive to certain people and / or certain positions.
And, if you are (or have been) a target of a Bully, remind yourself of this fact. It is the Bully who is not fully mature or fully developed as an individual. Mature developed individuals do not become Bullies. If you can find it in your heart to do so, pity them. But don't forget to FLAG them anyway!!