In a virtual world of on-line imagination, conversations matter. Social commitments in anonymous cyberland results in all manner of bad behavior. On-line communities are a microcosm of people letting antisocial tendencies fly free.

We have been contemplating subtle forms of cyber-bullying encountered in our Second Life online community.

Bullying. The first step in dealing with bullying or social aggression is to identify it.

“Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioural, professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control and subjugation (criticism, exclusion, isolation etc). Bullying is sustained by abdication of responsibility (denial, counter-accusation, pretence of victimhood) and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (eg promotion) for the bully.” – Tim Field, 1999

“Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress”
MSF Union, 1994

The “N.I.C.E” strategy of Shapiro, Jankowsi and Dale has helped us in dealing with cyberbullying:

N- Neutralize emotions

I- Identify type of difficult person and why they are behaving as they do

C- Control the encounter

E- Explore options

Once we calm down, we try to identify why someone is misbehaving. Shapiro, Jankowsi and Dale categorize difficult people:

  • Situationally Difficult People- Someone is having a bad day. That can happen.
  • Simply Difficult People- People with an ingrained personality characteristic.
  • Strategically Difficult People- People that believe that being unreasonable is effective at getting what they want.

People can have a bad day and some friends that are poor at social interaction. Communication, patience and kindness are called for in exceptional circumstastances.

When people routinely use bullying behavior as a strategy to gain advantage, we want to either ignore the situation, run away or bite back.

We want to explore effective ways to neutralize bullying situations permanently without becoming bullies ourselves.