A couple of days ago I wrote about Cyberbullying on my Facebook profile as the result of a few friends being targeted by an individual who has developed an obsession after being pulled up for aggressive debating within a particular community some months ago. Cue an article in my newsfeed from a pop-magazine discussing the hashtag #iwillnotbedeleted campaign starting on November 12th, which is a cyberbulling awareness campaign. Cyberbulling is real. I have experienced it, most of us have at one point or another – some of us are just thicker skinned than others, or able to numb ourselves at such constant attacks.
When I mentioned to a friend that I am writing this article they warned me against doing so, because it might “make you more of a target Sorita”. Well, if it does, I can only hope that this (which might be the first of many) article on things which bother me, will be here and available to someone who needs it when they need it, and that it will somehow contribute to someone else not having to experience what I have experienced, and what I have witnessed over the last 20 plus years. So I am going to share this everywhere, and I hope you do to.
I more often choose to write about the history of magic, witchcraft and folklore, and the practices they inspire today – but tonight I have decided to speak out on what I consider the violent, abusive and damaging way in which a tiny minority of people in the Pagan and occult community abuse the internet today. I have been involved in esoteric and religious communities on the internet since 1996, and have in one way or another been involved in managing or facilitating such communities since 1997. I have seen a lot of frustrating behaviour, but in recent years the internet has actively and openly become a tool for bullies in the contemporary esoteric movement to disrupt, hurt and discourage others. I am well aware that one blog like this cannot stop cyberbulling, but it can help towards raising greater awareness of this type of abuse which is often overlooked. Members of Pagan, Wiccan, Witchcraft, Occult and other esoteric societies are not only targeted by outsiders who have issues with our beliefs or practices, but also by others from our own traditions and communities.
I like to go back to basics a lot with my own magical practice – and the tenet: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent often takes centerplace. This blog brings together elements from this approach. This article does not present binding spells or curses as tools to deal with Cyberbullies as it is my opinion that those reading this who are equipped to use magic to fight Cyberbullies will already have the knowledge and skills to do so without my input. And those who don’t should focus their attention on the mundane defences first, and restore balance to their lives before resorting to magic.
And before I continue – If you are one of the nincompoop power-tripped cyberbullies out there who are hiding behind a mask of innocence or anonyminty, you will probably think this blog is about you. It is not. � This blog is about me, and every other Pagan, Witch, Priest or Priestess, Esoteric and Magical Practitioner who has been on the receiving end of your bad behaviour. This blog is about taking back power. Raising awareness.
What Cyberbullies do:
Bullies are, of course, like everyone else, unique. Cyberbullies use the internet as a tool to get their kicks, and typically engage in:
- Repetitive behaviour with the intention of harming;
- Creating cruel rumours and stories with the intent of damaging the reputation and friendships of the individual they are targetting;
- Impersonation, pretending to be the individual they are targetting or someone else, to get close to the individual and gather information they can use against the individual;
- Excluding and isolating their victim, in an effort to weaken their self-esteem and cause them hurt.
Cyberbulling is a real problem. It has led to suicide, self-harm and real emotional distress for victims. Not everyone has the pleasure of good friends or family to support them, and not everyone is thick skinned enough to shrug it off.
Why people become (Cyber)Bullies.
These are among the top reasons noted as reasons why people turn towards Bullying behaviour, in spiritual and secular communities:
- They are processing their own trauma or stress;
- They feel powerless, and are looking for ways to exert power over others;
- They are suffering from low self-esteem;
- They are looking for attention, and dont know how to get that in a positive way;
- They are acting on Peer Pressure;
- They gain social standing and popularity through their actions;
- They lack education, and with that, social or cultural understanding.
Bullies are not born Bullies, they become Bullies. And Victims likewise. It is possible to stop being a Victim, and it is possible to stop being a Bully.
Don’t want it shared? Don’t share it!
We have to take personal responsibility for our online interactions and for our safety too. Would you leave the keys in the ignition of your brand new sports car, with the door open in the middle of a big city? Would you hand over your personal banking details to a complete stranger, with a copy of your passport? Apply the same common sense to all your online activities – don’t share things on the internet, if you don’t want it to be on the internet. Even private spaces are not necessarily private –a private Instagram account with hundreds of followers, or a secret Facebook group with thousands of members. Be realistic.
What to do if you are targeted by a CyberBully
If you feel that you are being bullied online, here is some simple – but effective (and important) advice. The advice is straightforward, but following it when you are being bullied by an experienced bully is not easy.
- Do not respond.
- Report them.
- Block them.
- Starve them of that which they crave – attention, feedback.
- Do so on all the social media platforms you use.
- Talk about it to a trusted friend who you know in person, and if necessary get advice.
Also: Inform yourself about the laws in your country, and if you believe that laws are being broken, or that you or your loved ones are in physical danger, do not hesitate to report the situation to the authorities.
If you continue to interact with a Cyberbully you are giving them what they want – feedback, attention; and worse you might show them that their behaviour is getting to you. This is what they crave. Worse, you may yourself be seen as being abusive if you continuously interact with them, especially when you are upset or angry, as you might write things you later regret. Continued interactions could also make it much more difficult if you need to make a complaint or if it does get serious and you have to involve the authorities for action to be taken, as Bullies are often very good at manipulating things to fit their version of events. So just don’t. I know it’s hard, but when you are tempted to engage, shut down your computer. Go out for a walk, take some exercise, do some housework, listen to some music, take a bubble-bath, de-stress. Then go back to the message. Read it again, and if you still feel emotional, take control and follow the advice: Ignore, Report and Block.
But STOP – Not everyone is a Bully!
The internet is a wonderful resource, and it connects millions of people. It is very much part of the “real” world we live in today. Just because someone wrote something you disagree with, just because they expressed an idea or shared a lifestyle choice you are not comfortable with, does not make them a bully – it makes them different from you, and it makes for an opportunity to learn and grow. Make sure that you are not labelling someone a bully just because they see the world differently from you. If what they are sharing is legal, but uncomfortable for you, you can reflect on whether you have something to learn, and if not you can still decide to unsubscribe or block the individual if you don’t want to see the stuff they are sharing.
Online communication also lacks the personal interaction that face-to-face contact offers, and if someone is technologically illiterate to some extent they can easily post something in an inappropriate place or an inappropriate way. That doesn’t make them a bully! All of this can lead to misunderstandings. I am sure you can all think of messages you sent, or received which had some auto-correct or predictive texting mishap attached, I certainly can! Or even, when you wrote something to a friend or as a status update on twitter or facebook, only to receive rather strange responses to it, before realising that your message was somewhat misleading or had a double meaning, depending on how you read it.
So before you scream “BULLY” first take the time to ask:
1/ Why am I reacting?
2/ Is it a misunderstanding?
3/ What do I know, based on my own experience, about the situation? Is there someone I can speak to find out more?
If you are unsure, respond to the message or comment you received – and ask for clarification. If it wasn’t a misunderstanding, act appropriately. If it was a misunderstanding, you will save yourself and others a lot of anguish.
Dare to Question what you are told.
In Pagan and other occult circles, we love to think we are all individuals, that we have free will and are able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. If you fall into this category, make sure that the Bully is not using you as part of their campaign. The strategic online Bully might be using you to create a false sense of consensus, which they will use to further isolate and break the self-esteem of their target. And a social media drama does seem to attract at least as much, if not more attention, than a cute kitten meme these days!
How often do you read something on social media written by one of your contacts about someone you don’t really know in which it is stated or insinuated that the person is inferior or has done something terrible? The attack might even be veiled in clever humour making fun of the person’s beliefs, mental health, practices, appearance or the way they dress or speak. These tend to be viewed as less offensive than poking fun at someone because of their race, size, gender or sexuality, and therefore acceptable, but it is not. It really is not. How often do you respond with a “like” or another form of upvote when you read something like that? Why?
A particular bugbear of mine in this regard is seeing attacks made by Pagan and Witchy friends on the beliefs and practices of other majority faith groups and in particular Christian Church groups. While these are not generally targeted at an individual, it is still unnessary verbal violence against members of that faith group. The excuses given for such memes are often generic statements such as “they did it to us first” or some such. Really? This kind of attacks are often created in the form of “fun” memes around the Wheel of the Year festivals and often display misinformed and misrepresented facts, which are not helpful to anyone.
Don’t become an unwitting accomplice.
Supporting these kinds of posts (whether by liking, commenting or sharing) on social media gives the Bully confidence. It also contributes to the feeling of isolation the person or persons they are targetting might feel. So please stop, think and act responsibly. Peer pressure can be hard to overcome, but don’t unintentionally become the Bully’s associate. How about this for a dare? – Make a decision to never share, like or comment on posts which are attacks on other people or groups, nor to share, like or comment on posts that contain sensitive material which has been shared with malicious or otherwise vindictive intent Instead, report it. It might not be about you, but imagine if it was.
TO KEEP SILENT
Know when to speak, how to speak and when to Shut Up.
Back to basics. If you experience online bullying – do not interact or respond to the Bully!
However, this does not mean you have to remain silent: you simply need to know how to respond appropriately – and in most instances that will simply be to report the offensive material to the relevant social media platform and then to block / delete the individual from sending you more such. Do not delete what they send you, because if they later resort to more serious behaviour, it might be useful to illustrate the extent of their abuse to the relevant authorities, so keep copies and records. If you or anyone else, is being physically threatened, in any way – whether insinuated or directly, or if you feel unsafe for whatever reason; report the incident to the police or your local law enforcement.
The Big Lie.
In recent years there have been a couple of notorious esoteric-related “hate blogs” which have been set up by individuals hiding behind (apparently) anonymous facades with the intention to disrupt, hurt and isolate individuals within particular communities using the Big Lie tactic. The “Big Lie” (große Lüge) which was a technique coined by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and later developed by others to promote the idea that if one had to lie about something, one should tell lies that are so big they would be believable. The idea being that it would become impossible to believe that it’s not true – and this is especially the case when a Big Lie is mixed with other well-known factual information. So question what you are told. Question why you are being told about it. And repeat. Then decide what to do.
Over the years I have been involved with social media I have had to ask myself many times whether or not I have been to harsh with someone, and sometimes whether my behaviour has been warranted or not. In the end, it is important for us to evaluate our own behaviour, to take responsibility for own actions, take remedial action and become more self-aware. These are all essential steps on both a spiritual and magical path.
Bullying is not acceptable. Ever, online or off. Look at yourself and do what you can to stop and eradicate it through your own behaviour and your own interactions. Reach out and support those who are being bullied, even if they appear to be strong people surrounded by friends and family, your support – even if just saying “I am here if you need me” will make a huge difference.
And if you are on the receiving end, please stop, evaluate and act: Ignore, Report, Block – and take further legal action if the Bully persists.
If you read this article because you are currently experiencing online bullying, please also consider exploring the following resources:
More information on #IWILLNOTBEDELETED #WEWILLNOTBEDELETED campaign: