Cyberharassment: How far is too far?

Call me sensitive, but the computer, cellphones, and the Internet have allowed us to use it as a shield to tear down people.   When do we say enough is enough and someone has crossed the line?  Now this is mostly present among teenagers, but I feel that it’s crossed into the workplace and other professional environments.

Speaking from personal experience, a few years ago I came across a Facebook group dedicated to my junior high school.  I don’t know about you but Junior High was hell for me.  I attended a private, Christian school.  I had skipped a couple of grades so I was two years younger than most of my peers.  On top of that I developed very early, so I was not comfortable in my own skin and that showed.  I felt like it opened the door for most of the violence and derogatory words hurled my way.  Almost 12 years later I decided to click on that group just to see or in my own sad way relive the horror. And there it was in all its glory; my class photo and all my bullies came full force.  They relived everything they did to me.  The girls who helped them avoided the conversation, but the boys definitely relived their glory days.  I obviously had no comment since these arseholes obviously had no life.  Twice I reported and asked Facebook to take it down.  I changed my name, but I didn’t want to risk them finding my profile.  So I deactivated my account for several years.  Its sad to admit that just like that I regressed to that 11-year-old kid.  But I’m back on now and since the creation of pages, I haven’t seen it.  So out of sight out of mind.

Unfortunately, I know if I went through that, I cannot imagine what the younger generation is going through as they literally grew up with this technology.  But what about the adults who have lost their jobs, reputations, or even relationships due to a single moment of immaturity by either themselves who documented or friends, frenemies, even just plain enemies documented?  Could that be seen as cyberbullying or cyberharassment?  Yes, even if it is just words on a page.  Yes, even if it’s a lie.  But only if is meant to cause intentional harm.  Although, it is mainly prevalent among teenagers, according to overcomingcyberbullying.com, adult women are reporting “adult groups dedicated to harassing and defaming other as well, along with websites created specifically to make fun of and demean individuals.”

Misinformation is spread with the click of a link.  Workplace environments can become hostile from just that one click of a link that was sent from anywhere, possibly someone you didn’t even know.  Google is a monster!  The saddest part is even if the harassment crosses over into criminal territory, law enforcement does not have the tools necessary to combat it! Even though, almost every state has ratified laws in cyberstalking and cyberharassment most blog sites don’t have specific terms of service to protect individuals from cyberharassment.  Defamation of character is serious and you don’t have to make an online mistake to be a target.  It could happen due to an overheard harmless comment, someone attacking you for what you believe in, or simply you were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A good word of advice:  Please be aware of everything you do and say while you enjoy your experience online. Don’t rely on the so-called safety of being “anonymous” online. Keep in mind that online is “real life” too. Also remember that anything you say, can and will be used against you. Words on a screen lack emotion. The words you write online can be warped and twisted to present a different and false picture if your cyberbully finds things you have said online. They often twist your words to fulfill their version of you in order to make you seem like the bad person in the situation.”