Handling Online Bullying – Heidi Wright

Let’s face it.

Our industry cops a fair bit of attention.

Being the target of unwanted attention can be confronting and downright stressful.

What happens when someone leaves a negative and hurtful comment on your thread? Or a Page shares your post to their passionate community, pointing the finger back at the author in judgement? 

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that people have opinions and it is their right to share it – this is fine. But when commenting turns into harassment or bullying like behaviour, that’s when we need to stop and take action. 

The definition of cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

1 in 5 Australian young people reported being socially excluded, threatened or abused online in 2017. More resources are becoming available to help people recognise, act quickly and seek support.

So, what can you do if you are receiving hurtful comments, or even worse, being threatened via social media? 

1) First of all, it is important to know that you are not alone. Turn to someone you trust and share what is going on. This might be your friend, family member or your industry support network – in this case, Livestock Leaders Alumni. Simply sharing the issue will help you open up dialogue and allow you to act with support from people you trust.

2) Do a thorough check of your privacy settings. Each web platform is different. You are in control of what you choose to share publicly, so ensure you know and use the privacy settings on the platform/s that you are active on.

3) Disconnect with or unfriend the user, or depending on the circumstances, immediately block them. 

4) Report the user and the offensive comments they’re posting to the platform. Social media platforms have guidelines that all users must adhere to. It is in the best interests of the platform to eradicate abusive comments or anything that may be described as bullying.  

Sometimes someone will post content or share something of yours that you don’t agree with. Simply sending them a message and letting them know how this makes you feel can prompt them to remove it. For example, on Facebook, you can use the report link on that photo to send the person a message. In most cases, people will take things off Facebook if a connection asks them to.

It’s well documented that most bullies are looking for a reaction, so don’t give them one. In other words: avoid engaging in further conversation and instead follow the tips above.

If you know someone who might be experiencing online bullying, be sure to reach out to them and start a conversation. Use gentle exploration and empathy. This will help you find out what happened, how your friend feels about it, and what they might want to do.

If your friend expresses emotional distress or thoughts of self-harm, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional immediately and make sure your friend is not left alone. You can ask a counselor or psychologist for advice, or call BeyondBlue or Reachout.com.