The COVID-19 pandemic has caused campus shutdowns across the world, forcing schools to operate online. Social media interactions are at an all-time high, which leads to higher cyberbullying rates as well.
L1ght, an organization that tracks online harassment, reported a 70% increase in cyberbullying in just the last few months alone. On top of increased social media usage, the bullying trend comes from factors like increased stress, isolation, or just boredom.
The pandemic has prompted confusion and uncertainty for many, leading them to be stressed. A common response to stress is to lash out at others, and it has been happening more recently. Without the intimidation and barriers of real-life interaction, people have been reacting out online. The lack of empathy in online interactions makes it difficult to counsel and respond to these lashouts.
Social isolation also funnels into the problem, as people lose contact with their friends and, therefore, become lonely. People who suffer from loneliness often use bullying as an avenue for relief as well.
Anonymity is extremely common on social media, with people making “burner” accounts, which conceal the identity of the user and typically do not have many followers. It becomes quite easy for anyone to send in harmful messages that cannot be traced by normal means. Without the involvement of authorities like police, the messages go unchecked, resulting in high rates of cyberbullying.
A common trend in school communities is the existence of “confession” pages, where Instagram users can request that certain messages be posted for all the followers of a certain account. The contents of these messages are often libelous and contribute to the cyberbullying issue on school-related social media. Most of the time, the identity of the sender is undisclosed too, especially if they use a burner account to send the messages.
Several clubs and organizations have been formed on campus to counter the effects and rise of cyberbullying. Taking polls will help these organizations do research and develop plans against the recent trend.