Blog: The dark art of cyber-bullying

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By Richard Parcia Oftentimes, I am left wondering to what extent the real lives of people are superimposed in the virtual worlds. It is already a foregone conclusion for me that virtual attitudes, and the culture that incubates it, is just an amplification of reality. The argument that a person can live a life in a digital world that is quite different from the world of human beings is inaccurate. After all, what we project to people is just a piece of us and not necessarily ?us?. For one reason or another, we keep something for ourselves ? things that might come out if the circumstances are ripe for it. This ?something? might not be necessarily good. It might be streak of meanness or the lurking nature of evil. Either it is just a tendency to create mischief or the more fertile mind of a Hannibal Lecter wannabe. With these things in mind, I ventured into an informal observation of behavior that is prevalent in this age of social networks. It is part of the Internet?s underbelly that has the same fatal effect as the trafficking of narcotics through the use of the Web. In fact, it is worse than online porn. That behavior is cyber-bullying. To better understand the nature of cyber-bullying, I attempted to classify it. That attempt led me to identify three types of cyber-bullies. Let?s go through it one by one. The first kind is the Troll. This is the most common kind. Almost all comment section of any online publishing outfit has this type. Every netizen is familiar with the Troll. Their nature is similar to flies as they seem to find their way into every conversation ? even inside clean rooms. Because of their inherent capabilities to be just anywhere, Trolls are the most annoying of the cyber-bullies. It is suspected, and there are basis to this suspicion, that Trolls are out-of-control programs created by programmers whose intention is just to create mischief. Just as malware is created to keep AV companies on their toes, Trolls just pop out for the sake of popping out. However, I had seen Trolls that were really represented by real people. The online service LinkedIn has lots of them. The only good thing about Trolls is that they don?t go beyond from what they were intended to do. They would leave a message but that?s about it. There are moments wherein they can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure just like the case of them invading comment threads that were created as a form of tribute to a deceased celebrity or icon. To deal with them, is to either ignore them, or delete them. The second kind is what I call the Minion. Now, this kind is more aggressive and has more powers than the Troll, especially if they come in numbers. In fact, the Minion is most powerful in numbers. They act like a mob with pitchforks and torches whose only goal is the elimination of their version of malevolence. A group of Minions is the cyber reincarnation of the mob. Just like their real word counterparts, the Minion is mindless. The bigger the number of Minions, the more mindless they become. The past few years had seen cases of bullying done by Minions with some, ending in deaths. They are often caused by extreme prejudice towards sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or political stands. In local soil, we had seen Minions gang up on a UP Law student (now a lawyer) who was caught between a flood and a TV camera. Thankfully, the guy was smart enough to turn the incident into a laughing matter by acceding to a TV ad based on what happened to him. Perhaps, knowing that it is almost impossible to fight Minions, he just decided to cash in. Very smart. Very UP. Unfortunately, not everybody or situation allows the targets of Minions to cash in. When the Minions reach critical mass, it might be too strong to fight back. In fact, fighting back is foolish because every word that comes out from the target will be cherry-picked. In short, the victim cannot win. To deal with Minions is just to get out of the page or community. Take a break. Mobs have short attention spans. They tend to diffuse when their attention is diverted which is often the case. Once they are reminded that they need to tend the fields, they would realize that their pitchforks might be too expensive to use for lynching. This is their weakness and it is to the advantage of the victim to exploit it. The third kind is what I call the Smelly Ogre. Among the three, this is the most dangerous of bullies. The Smelly Ogre is the kingpin of bullies. It is the Voldermort of the fantastic world of networked lives. The Sauron of Internet earth. Just like a real world kingpin, the Smelly Ogre is both cruel and charismatic. They have the capacity to turn the opinions of others to their own. Unlike the Minions, who merge because of issues, thus can be diverted, the Smelly Ogre has a single minded purpose and is capable of a mean streak of a serial killer. And because of this single minded purpose, it can lead a pack of Minions. They will not stop until their target is eliminated. Smelly ogres own websites or even blogs that spew the most ludicrous of slime. I once stumbled upon a community of gamers that was led by one. Their common habitats are public boards wherein they can remain nameless. Those who are brazen to show their names have shorter lives but are not less dangerous. There is only one way to deal with the Smelly Ogre. Run away. Avoid being online. They can only touch you when you are within their world which is sadly the whole virtual world. If you are lucky, the Smelly Orgre can be erratic in terms of advocating your demise. However, I won?t bet to be lucky. There you have it ? the cyber bullies. I was once asked by a friend on how to deal with online personal attacks. Nonchalantly, I replied, then don?t be online. Perhaps, that can be a better tact. After all, social networks amplifies you but it is not you. Often times, it is better to smell the flowers than be in front of a computer.]]>

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