Let me start off by saying that I am in no way an advocate for bullying whether that be through more contemporary forms via social media or the traditional “I’ll get you after school” approach I grew up with; although (arguably) the physical threat may not be as prominent, the emotional impact of feeling intimidated and vulnerable is still very real and not something I would never condone.

I am in no way claiming I had an enhanced sense of social awareness at a young age, but attending a single sex, testosterone fuelled, male school environment inherently came with a side culture of bullying at almost every turn. If it was your birthday you had to avoid getting punched in the arm, if you bought a new pair of shoes you had to avoid people aggressively trying to stomp on your newly acquired footwear and you were even ridiculed if your hairstyle didn’t quite align with what was in vogue at the time.

Looking back I can find some moments of joy from this period of my life and I’m not trying to give you the impression my high school days always made me feel low, but undeniably the culture of bullying only presented two options (1) hide or (2) confront. The crushed ice and lemon twist in this tale was the people who used to taunt, bully and harass me were not big intimidating brutish kids from the wrong side of the tracks but rather my first social network of…

Friends.

People I made the choice to be around and considered to be allies based on a common socio-economic and cultural shared identity, although I can’t be too hard on myself as I was only 11 years old at the time! I hung out with these people for at least the first few years of high school and was fortunate enough to come to an early realisation that most of the harassment I experienced was from a collective group of individuals I considered to be my buddies.

Even today I’m not sure if the kids I hung out with knew how they made me feel at times? Much of the negative commentary was delivered in the form of casual humour, but perhaps that’s the point?

The bullying and harassment I experienced wasn’t always from the cool kid collective who didn’t want to sit with me in the lunchtime cafeteria and the sad thing is sophisticated bullying moves way beyond the school playground and any casual or familiar readers of this blog know I make a clear distinction between a fictional media influenced reality vs the actual reality I live.

There is a lot of negativity throughout the limitless void of the internet and perhaps it’s the realistic optimist in me but I don’t fully buy the concept of an overwhelming mass of online trolls that have an insatiable appetite to bring forth negativity at every turn, because the generalisation almost too easy?

Perhaps the term “Online Troll” should refer to a range of individuals who engage in negative online conduct, with some people who love the negative attention bad online conduct generates others who simply aren’t mature enough to know better. What if some online bullies are perhaps victims of bullying themselves?

Again, I must reiterate, I do not discredit the bullying and harassment people genuinely experience within the online space and the associated negative consequences (even if I hadn’t recently watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix) however I can guarantee the person negatively trolling behind the protective barrier of a screen wouldn’t have the same brash confidence, arrogance or attitude in the real world if an opportunity to sit down face to face presented itself.

I wish no one would have to experience bullying, but it is a harsh reality of the world we inhabit, unfortunately bullying is more than inflammatory comments by an anonymous online troll sometimes it’s closer than you think. So whenever you come across a troll (online or otherwise) think of yourself as the little Billy Goat Gruff from the fable written by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, if you can’t handle a troll get assistance from someone that can and deal with the troll head on.

Until next time.