We live in a time where a huge part of our daily interactions with people lies online, in a virtual world where speed of communication is key, and entertainment value is significant, if not vital. The Internet has enabled us to cross time and space barriers, allowing instant access, responses to and sharing of information. Everyone is no longer mere consumers of information, but also producers.

This overall ease of instant communication, though powerful, is very often abused by people who lack good intentions–people who are careless, mindless, insensitive, unhappy with themselves, culturally unaware, bigoted, self-centered, biased, or simply mean-spirited.

How should we deal with the online bullies who leave nasty comments on our Facebook posts, our Tweets, our WordPress, our Tumblr, our YouTube videos, our Instagram photos, and wherever? How do we deal with these strangers? What about those who are our acquaintances, or “frenemies”? How do you stop the constant chain of discouraging notes and the on-and-off harassment.

Here’s the complete guide to chasing those sources of negative energy away from your online social life.

1. Send them a private message

Confront the bullies. Tell them that you know what they are doing. Tell them that what they are doing is wrong. Don’t be afraid to communicate with them. They might even be shocked that you dare to speak up. By sending them a personal message, you make yourself appear to them as an actual person who can be hurt and feel pain, and less of virtual person whom they think might not even exist.

But do not send a hateful message of vulgarities, slurs and insults. You can’t fight hate with hate. Don’t be defensive and insecure about the whole thing. You don’t want to add on any more negative energy and make the whole matter worse. Be nice. Be the bigger person. That’s what that differentiates you from someone mean and hateful.

2. Expose them

Bullies often think that they can simply hide behind their computer screens while they go about spreading hate online. If you know who they are, you have the choice to tear off their veil of anonymity. Let them and their evil deeds come to light. Don’t let them get away for free. Let people know who they are. Warn others about them. By helping yourself, you also help others from getting hurt.

3. Own the names they gave you

Don’t let the labels the bullies put on you terrorize you. Own the ‘name’ by saying, “Hey, you can call me a xxxxx all you want but that won’t make you any better a person, or me, any worse.” The truth is, there is no point in telling the bullies to stop calling you what they call you. Because the more you dislike the ‘name’ or the ‘label,’ the more they will use it against you.

So don’t be afraid to speak using the very terms that the bullies use on you. By not avoiding the use of those terms yourself, you show the bullies that you do not feel fear or sadness at the mere sight of those words. You own the names when you truly overcome the power they have over your happiness. Don’t let the words of the bullies make you doubt yourself, or hate yourself. Don’t let the names have power over you and your emotions.

4. Be open about it

Don’t allow yourself to be a victim silenced by fear. Don’t tell yourself that you are not affected when in reality you feel wounded and trapped. Don’t ignore the facts and what had happened. Because if you do–if you keep mum about it and act like you’re fine with everything–the bullies might really believe that you are alright, and that they are not hurting you that much. In this case, they might become even more aggressive with their taunting.

Be bold. You don’t have to be afraid if you have nothing to hide. Being a victim of online bullying is not something to be ashamed of. If you turn things around and make it something you are unafraid to be open and honest about, you will emerge as victorious. You win by being open about it.

This is how we fight bullying–by talking about it, sharing about it, and helping each other brave through it. While the bullies will always be there as bullies, every bullied person will come out of the battlefield as a stronger and wiser being.

5. Tell your friends and family

We all need some love and support in the times of personal crisis. Just because you try to seek help and comfort in someone other than yourself doesn’t mean that you are weak–it just means that you are human. We are all social beings who need to talk to each other about our day and our feelings. It’s not healthy for anyone to keep everything in. At some point, you will have to let it out to feel better.

Nobody wants to be bullied, criticized or humiliated. It is not a nice feeling to be disliked by other people. At this point, instead of throwing yourself a pity-party and wallowing in your own self-sympathy, you should talk to your friends and family. You will be surprised by the amount of love and support you’ll get. Don’t be ashamed of yourself. And stop thinking that people will be ashamed of you.

It is necessary that you have your friends and family as your allies. Often, true friends will not only stand with their friend who is bullied, they will help to fight back as well. Let your friends and family speak up for you. This is not just your battle–it’s the battle of everyone who loves you. Friends and family are the perfect reminder that you are not alone and that you are loved.

6. Report/block them online

As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If you need to report or block the people who are harassing you, do so right now. Reporting or blocking people online doesn’t mean that you are “afraid of them,” or that you are “unable to handle them.” That would be the same as saying, I don’t wear a seatbelt while driving because I think I can handle the roads and I’m not afraid of accidents. But accidents do happen. Even if you don’t bump into people, some might just come crashing into you. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Look through your privacy settings and make the necessary changes to better protect your private information and content. Social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, are not responsible for your protection. You are the one responsible for your own protection.

7. Ignore them

If it’s just a single hate comment or a small thing (not regular insults and spam), you should just ignore them. Let the haters do their thing. When no response is given to them, they will simply move on to other things and other people. Don’t always see the need to correct people, because most of the time they won’t care what you say. They won’t try to understand. Your explanation means nothing to them. Don’t become mean or aggravated because of them. If you choose to fight fire with fire, the whole situation is only going to drag on longer.

Remember: Be kind and forgiving. Don’t sink to their level.

Finding and keeping friends in adulthood is different from the days when you played on the playground at recess. 11 Reasons Why You Don’t Have Many Friends

Featured photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

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