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Why do people feel they can be unpleasant or bully online?


Article by Ceri Wheeldon

Why is it that people feel they can bully and be unpleasant on social media, where they would never think of behaving in that manner in real life?

bullying online image

Since I set up Fab after Fifty I have always thought myself to be really fortunate. The site was always intended to be a platform where women over 50 could come together to inform, share and inspire.  I have connected with really lovely people, it was as though we have all been navigating this stage of our lives together, and there seemed to be a warm, supportive atmosphere surrounding the whole website and social media pages and accounts. I know other sites have closed forums due to the difficulty in keeping out bullying remarks and was always grateful that this was something I had not encountered. Lately though I have noticed a change – bitter, negative comments have started to creep in from individuals new to the groups who have not participated in any of the discussions previously – irrespective of the topic. I do not write all the posts and articles on the website myself, but it got to the point this week where I was hesitant to post anything at all as I really couldn’t face having to moderate/delete nasty comments totally out of context. Why do the few have to spoil things for the majority?

Why do people feel they can make hateful comments online?

Constructive comments and different viewpoints have always been welcome – it is what makes the site real – and we don’t all think the same – thankfully! But why is it that people can hide behind online personas and feel they can post hurtful comments with no regard as to how others may feel when they read them.

If I post an inspirational post regarding someone’s achievement – whether it’s completing a very physical challenge or setting up a business or charity why is it that people need to speculate as to whether somebody has had ‘work done’ to their face, or criticise what they are wearing, or how much money they may or may not have ? Why can they not just applaud and support the positives and not try to find what is often a non-existent negative?

Whether it is just that the size of the readership has grown and therefore it  increases the likelihood of people who are bitter or jealous wanting to have their  voices heard as they now have a broader platform to showcase from – all be it anonymously – I have no idea.

So grateful for the support

Things came to ahead for me this weekend and I posted a comment expressing my upset and disappointment at the direction things seemed to be taking on the Facebook page associated with the site. I was overwhelmed by the response. The post reached many thousands of people on Facebook and hundreds of women posted messages of support – noting that they had seen a trend for ‘trolling’ on so many sites and pages, but that together we could at least stop it taking hold on Fab after Fifty. It was a level of support for which I am truly grateful – and to be honest was quite emotional and overwhelmed by. It is a post which really I should never have felt the need to write.

But why is it that people feel they can behave like this in online communities? What is it that motivates them? why is it that they say hurtful things from behind the safety of a computer screen that they would never say face to face?

In writing this I would again like to say a very big thank you to all the women who showed their support over the weekend, and for others who run online communities ask what experience they have, and how they have tackled the issue.

Image credit: freedigitalphotos

Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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