Dealing with the feelings from getting a nasty message online and then working out what to do.
We mostly get nice messages
Social networking can be amazing. Being able to chat shit about what’s on telly, or what happened that day at school, sharing the latest news about who’s shagging who, sharing Drake memes that I don’t understand, flirting with someone, or asking out for *hugs* because you’ve had a crap day. All this with everyone you know and love all at the same time is great.
People we like and love can contact us any time, day and night. This can make us feel closer to people.
Messages from our peoples (friends, girl/boyfriends, family) can buzz in our pockets, or blink by our pillows day and night 24/7. This can make us feel very close and connected with people we want in our lives like, literally, they are with us all the time.
This is why receiving horrible messages on any social networking site can be, well, horrible. It can feel personal, like someone’s invading your space, coming into your bedroom, or appearing on your phone and saying really nasty scary things. If this happens it can be a shock. What happens to you when you feel shock? Think about last time you were shocked: what happened with your breathing, your heart rate, what could you hear or see?
What happens when we get upset?
When we’re upset by something or something threatens us the amygdala in our brain goes off on one releasing a load of chemicals in our brains that make us panic: we either run off, freeze or get angry back. Back in the day it was to protect us against being attacked by dinosaurs (?). When this happens it’s important to remember that these feelings will go away by themselves. In the meantime focus on your breathing, observe what happens when you breathe. How quickly, how deeply, the difference between the in and the out breath. The more it happens the more you will work out what kind of support you will need (e.g. whether you want hugs or space) — more about how to do self-care here. When you’re upset it’s a good plan to tell someone you trust (adult or someone your age).
Ask for whatever support you need. A hug, some silence, a fist bump, hand on the shoulder, whatever you need.
How to cope and take control
If you get those feelings again it’s worth remembering that this message isn’t really in your pocket or by your pillow. Messages on social networks are actually in a massive hard drive somewhere in a massive desert or in the middle of nowhere. Try to imagine how far away it is from you. Picture it on a map. Once you’ve calmed down a bit, go back to the message and decide what to do (do this with someone else in the room if it helps).
The difference between online bullying and bullying IRL is that you have more control. You can block the person, report the message for abuse, delete the message, take screenshots of a message before you delete, decide not to login for a bit, come off that social network altogether. This is what other people do to manage this.
How to report
You can also report stuff to the police. Often really nasty messages are criminal offences. Sexual messages, or hateful messages, or threatening messages (threatening harm) are all breaking the law and the police can and do investigate these.
Often nasty messages are breaking the law, so it’s okay to tell the Police or another adult about this. They should take it seriously.
You can call your local police station or ring 101 the Police non emergency number (only ring 999 in an emergency) or visit their website to see if you can report there. (Some police forces are more up on this than others, so you may need to make notes of what you have already done, making sure you have evidence of any abuse or harassment you’ve received, so that they take action more quickly.)
For more online help you can visit BullyingUK. To keep yourself safe you can also visit Think U Know which is a guide to internet safety for young people. For more specifics on ask.fm check this or this from ask.fm themselves. Here’s how to report things on Facebook. Here’s how to report things on the twitterz. Here’s more from tumblr about what is not ok (scroll down to report). Here’s how to keep safe and report things at youtube.
It might be a good idea even if you haven’t had a nasty message, to go and do your homework and learn what you need to do just in case.
If you are really upset about people being nasty to you on or offline you can also ring Childline (free) (0800 1111) or chat online with someone there.
If you want to chat to other young people and get some advice about sex, relationships and you, in a space that is properly moderated to keep people as safe as possible try the Scarleteen message boards Read more about how they are a bully free zone here.
© Justin Hancock 2015
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