When cyberbullying is brought up, the most common thing to think about first is the victim. “Are they okay?” “Will they recover?’ “What happened to them?” Perhaps it’s the media or new television content, such as 13 Reasons Why or Cyberbully, that tend to focus on the mental and physical health of only the victim. It’s very rare that somebody first response is to think about the mental health of the actual bully. There are many reasons why people result to cyberbullying, and the answer is always going to differ depending on the individual. Many people just assume that the bully is just a rude, ill-mannered human being, but is that really the case?
Cyberbullying is a topic that many of us are familiar with. Due to the growth of technology and social media sites, bullying has been able to occur more than ever. Cyberbullying does not involve face to face interaction, and can essentially be done on any device with a keyboard and internet access. Teens can publicly cyberbully, like on social media sites, or privately cyberbully, like over text or messaging. “Bullying Statistics” shows that 80% of teens use their cell phone regularly, and more than half of them experience cyberbullying at some point in their lives. Many of the young teens who cyberbully on the internet are struggling with an internal conflict, which is what influences them to bully other young teens. According to “Ditch The Label”, bullying can be used as a coping mechanism for those who may be dealing with stress or abuse in their own lives. So, while attention is usually put onto the mental health of the victim, the mental health, and even physical health, of the bully is in danger as well. Cyberbullying is a growing epidemic that can caused by the mental and physical well-being of the teen bully.
Bullying tends to make the bully feel powerful. In cyberbullying, the bully can take on any identity that they want. Online, you can transform into whoever you want to be, and teens often like to take advantage of this. Teen will especially engage in this if they are self-conscious or unhappy with themselves. It serves as an outlet to be the person that they always wanted to be. Your Self Series in the article “Reasons People Cyber-bully” broke down the main reasons why young teens turn to cyberbullying. One of the reasons teens cyberbully is to gain power. They find the need to have control over others, and the easiest way to do this is to bully and manipulate someone. Bullying online allows people to see how powerful the bully really is. The abuse is displayed online for anybody in the word to see. They want others to fear them and feel like they’re less important than them. Teens can cyberbully because at one point they were bullied themselves. Bullying can make youths feel broken inside and smaller than everyone else. That’s why cyberbullying is so appealing to them, they can finally get the power they didn’t have before. They were once hurt, and cyberbullying allows for them to have the power to verbally hurt others. They also can get a social status that they always craved but could never have. Some enjoy watching others get bullied, and social media sites that target certain people tend to be getting very popular. For example, there is a twitter account that makes fun of women, and it has over 160,000 followers. This is a form of cyberbullying that targets a large audience. The account is still running today and nobody has suspended it. Men follow and retweet the tweets to make them feel more powerful over women. But why else do cyberbullies need power? Is there another psychological drive?
In “Striving for Power” by Adrian Furnham, he mentioned psychologist David McClelland, who claims that the basis of motivation is the need for achievement, affiliation, and power. Affiliation, as mentioned by Furnham, is often the one that goes the most unnoticed, but it definitely contributes to the motivation behind bullying. The need for affiliation is the need to form and maintain relationships with others. Humans crave human interaction, it’s something they all need to be loved and feel like they belong. Those who bully may lack this in their lives. Love and belongingness is a stage in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and must be met in order to achieve other complex stages. Cyberbullies can feel as though they are all alone and are desperate for attention by anyone. They no longer care about forming positive relationships but more so any form of relationship. Negative relationships can often form due to desperation for human interaction. When typical bullying occurs, word of mouth allows for many people to know who the bully is and what they did. However, cyberbullying allows for everyone to quickly and easily know who the bully is and see the actual bullying occur. When a fight breaks out, it only goes on for so long. But when conflict occurs on the internet, it stays there forever. All the negative attention allows for the teen-bully to fill the missing void of attention that they never had before. The attention will then fuel them to continue to cyberbully.
In fact, many people think that social media is to blame for cyberbullying. In “Cyberbullying On the Rise; Social Media to Blame” written by Annabella Biancheri, she explained that cyberbullying is the easiest form of bullying. Many teen cyberbullies will actually do it for entertainment in large groups because they think it is a fun, easy activity. It’s also easy to do because the proof can be deleted, especially off of apps such as snapchat, where the content deletes itself. Cyberbullying can be very simple because many don’t speak up due to the fear of getting their own cell phone privileges taken away. In fact, many will create an account under a fake name to prevent themselves from getting caught or in trouble. If an account is under another them, they can deny having anything to do it with. They can also frame others to make it seem like they are the bully, even if they are innocent.
On the internet, the bully has increased confidence and feels proud of who they are. This relates to the need for achievement. Mary Lamia in “Why Bullies Don’t Feel Bad” wrote how attacking others can cause teen bullies to feel proud and excite them. Many individuals are afraid of face to face confrontation. It’s much easier to say whatever you want if you are hiding behind a screen in the safety of your own home. Cyberbullies can project their own feelings onto others. They can feel as though they are achieving success in the internal battles by taking it out on others. Their learned response to threat or stress in their environment is violence and aggressiveness, which can make them feel like they are winning in the situation. This coping mechanism ends up being more avoidant rather than problem focused because they are avoiding the actual issue. They end up creating a new issue that they know they can win.
The last need is the need for power. Teens who have a strong motive for power feel the need to control and influence others. Self-actualization, a term created by Abraham Maslow, is the realization of one’s full potential and the drive to achieve it. One who craves a copious amount of power is said to have a high self actualization. They wish to be better than everyone and control all of those around them. The teens who cyberbully may be trying to live up to their full potential by tearing down those around them. Power can also help to fuel their self-esteem, which is also on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once a teen gains power, they will just crave more of it, preventing them from stopping cyberbullying or seeing it as wrong. Since the internet and social media is an outlet that is conveniently available for most teens, they can use it to tear down others in order to get closer to achieving their full potential of having power over others. Cyberbullying can be public and can motivate them to bully online even more so others can visibly see the power that they hold, having power over both the victim and the witnesses. The most common social media site for cyber bullying to occur on is Facebook, according to Tim Woda. Facebook has over 2 billion users, so many people can see online feuds that occur. Because of it’s large audience, bullies know that they will get an immediate reaction if they post anything on Facebook.
Another reason one might feel the need for power is due to gender stereotypes. Females tend to cyberbully more than males, and this may be due to the fact that the traditional view on gender states that men are more powerful than women. Many teen girls use the internet as an outlet to gain power that others believe they shouldn’t have. It’s typical for females to feel less superior to males in physical strength, which is usually required in teens were to bully someone in person. For example, many teen bullies with engage in physical fights with their victim or threat to do physical damage to them. However, cyber bullying is verbal abuse, allowing for females to bully whoever they want. In fact, “Cyberbullying Girls, are They More Common” suggests that females are twice as likely than boys to be the cyberbully. This is because females that to use emotional tactics. Girls are often more secretive about cyberbullying. They are secretive by creating anonymous accounts or spreading rumors to they can’t be caught.
Overall, the reason behind cyberbullying differs for the individual. However, the majority of the motives stem from psychological issues that are only being addressed through aggressive behavior. Affiliation, achievement, and power all help to fuel young teens to cyberbully on the internet. Cyberbullying has become a coping mechanism to dealing with one’s problems, especially those revolving around gender stereotypes and lack of attention. 63% of teens agree that cyberbullying is wrong, but it still continues to happen every day. Cyberbullying will keep spreading unless teens learn to use proper coping mechanisms for their struggles and get the help that they deserve.