Learning! Cyberbullying and empathy

New research has come out showing that, when it comes to cyberbullying, we engage in a little victim blaming.

Turns out that when someone posts something highly personal online, we feel less empathy for them if they get bullied for it.

In a recent study, participants were exposed to the Facebook feed a fictitious teenage girl where she posted one of four things, designed to be both positive and negative and personal or non-personal:

Personal negative: "I hate it when you miss someone like crazy and you think they might not miss you back :("

Personal positive: "I love it when you like someone like crazy and you think they might like you back :)"

Non-personal negative: "I hate it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you have to wait a whole week to watch more :("

Non-personal positive: "I love it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you can't wait until next week to watch more :)."
In all cases, this girl received a comment back that said "Who cares! This is why no one likes you." that received 6 likes.

Participants were asked to rate if they thought this consisted of bullying, whether they felt empathy for her, and whether they might send her a positive message or post something in her defence.

Everyone agreed, in all conditions, that the comment consisted of bullying, but when she revealed personal information people felt less empathy for her and felt she was more to blame for the bullying.

On one hand, I get it: the bullying on the Game of Thrones-related quote seems more out of the blue.  When people post really personal stuff online it tends to look like an annoying attention grab, and when someone is annoying it might seem like they are creating an opportunity for bullying.

On the other hand, this is terrible!  Revealing something personal should never be an excuse for bullying, and it should always be the bully's fault for engaging in such bad behaviour.  It doesn't matter how annoying a person is online, they don't deserve to be shamed or bullied.

Just another piece of human nature to think about next time you are online.  Maybe it's worth standing up for someone, even if you think they were "asking" to be bullied.


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