Hiding Behind a Screen: Cowardly Without a Keyboard


Over the last two decades, the internet and social media have provided a platform for all kinds of people to share their thoughts, opinions, and taste. Technology like this was able to connect like-minded people together and create a virtual community. However, an issue arises when these social media and internet users disagree and break out into arguments online. Social media also provides an outlet for negativity and hate that would’ve otherwise been filtered in the real world. Cyberbullying is the act of harassing, threatening, or humiliating others online. Cyberbullying is derived from cowardice, and it is shockingly prevalent and common nowadays. Despite this, there are methods to prevent and cope with cyberbullying. 

In order to prevent cyberbullying, the cause of cyberbullying must first be identified. Most people were raised to be polite in public; they were raised to say “please” and “thank you”. These manners are put up as a filter in public to avoid conflict and appear pleasant. However, the internet does not have the same environment as face-to-face contact. Users online do not have to face the people they communicate with; they do not necessarily have to take accountability for their actions with anonymous accounts. Online, it is easy to forget that the words behind the screen are written by real people with real emotions causing users to abandon their social filters. Junior, Alexandra Exantus, stated that “many people hide behind a screen because they don’t have to face confrontation and they are able to say anything. If a situation gets out of hand, they can easily turn their phone off.” Exantus brings up a great point about cyberbullies shutting out the messes they create. Unlike face-to-face contact, users online can “block” their way out of virtually any situation. They can delete the app, delete their account, or simply turn off their phone and the problem will be no more. The ability to click one button and pretend an encounter never occurred forms desensitization for users.

Senior, Tays Lemos.

Senior, Tays Lemos, stated “society is presented on social media differently than in person because it’s so easy to be influenced online, you could say something, and hundreds of strangers could back you up on it with made-up reasoning. Social media moves fast, and real life just doesn’t work the same way.” Social media and the internet are places where like-minded people connect; however, those people aren’t always necessarily good people. Cancel culture causes hundreds of thousands of users to attack one person based off claims that are not always backed up with evidence. Social media thrives from attention and news, whether it’s real or fake. Cyberbullying is the effect of a need for entertainment and cowardly attempts at being blunt without having to face the consequences of one’s words and actions. Whether it is on a large scale such as cancel culture or on a small scale such as personal bad blood, cyberbullying is spineless. 

Many may believe that cyberbullying only exists in fictional tv shows such as “Pretty Little Liars”, and although most cases of cyberbullying are not nearly as severe as the teen drama, that does not mean it is not shockingly prevalent in the world today. Cyberbullying can be as simple as sending a rude comment on a post and as drastic as creating hate pages for an individual. Emily A. Vogel’s article “Teens and Cyberbullying 2022” on www.pewresearch.org states “nearly half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (46%) report ever experiencing at least one of six cyberbullying behaviors asked about in a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 14-May 4, 2022.” Cyberbullying is much easier to encounter than face-to-face bullying, making it much more widespread and common. The words people encounter online stick with them just like the words they hear in person do. Cyberbullying leaves a real mark on people and this vile practice has, on some level, reached 46% of U.S. teens. Cyberbullying has even made its way to Wesley Chapel High School. One student reported “I witnessed my friend get cyberbullied and it was actually hurtful and scary. The people were able to say anything because they were behind a screen.” Students will take unsolicited pictures of their peers and airdrop them around or spread them over social media. Students have also created Instagram pages targeting specific groups of students over the past year. This type of behavior is not only childish and irresponsible, but also extremely damaging and hurtful. What may seem like a quick laugh for one student could leave another thinking about the situation for days, months, or even years. Cyberbullying in every way, shape, or form must be stopped so that everyone can log onto social media without fearing harassment and mockery. 

Although cyberbullying may seem like an inevitable experience because of the wide variety of users online and the exposure to every kind of person (each with their own moral compass), that does not have to be the case. There are ways users can protect themselves from cyberbullying and prevent themselves from becoming cyberbullies. Despite this article previously mentioning that simply turning off the phone can be an escape for cyberbullies from accountability, that same action can be a positive solution for victims of cyberbullying. Instead of scrolling for hours and browsing online hate, victims can turn off their device and focus their energy elsewhere. This may sound invalidating, but most of the time, the problem only exists online and once victims are able to look past the virtual community and witness its irrelevance in the real world, it will make all the difference. Cyberbullies are only as influential as the power they are given, so don’t give them that power.

Junior, Alexdanra Exantus

As for users fearing that they may be approaching cyberbullying territory, there are preventatives to falling down that rabbit hole. Addressing the issues with another individual maturely and directly is one way people can prevent themselves from becoming cyberbullies. Another way to prevent cyberbullying is the adjustment of one’s mindset. Christy Perry’s article “Hiding behind a screen- the negative impact of society” on www.cullmantribune.com states “I’ve had to reprogram my own way of thinking as I am also guilty of being negative. Now, I ask myself before I comment, ‘Is this helpful or encouraging? Will debating accomplish anything other than beating my own chest?’” Instead of spuing hate onto the internet, a change of perspective and self-control can help maintain a positive environment over social media. The saying “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” was not popularized for no reason. Perry states “I have challenged myself and I want to challenge others to show a little grace. Try to empathize with one another and consider how others are burdened. Discuss the positives.” There is no way to know what others may have going on in their lives, one hateful message could be the breaking point for the recipient, so showing a little empathy and reducing the self-centered mindset could prevent catastrophes from occurring. If the decency of being a mannerly and civil person is not convincing, then maybe the gentle reminder of the digital footprint will be. Whatever is said on the internet stays on the internet forever. Colleges and employers do not appreciate bullies. Background checks will be the worst enemy of a cyberbully and dealing with that mess can be prevented by simply being kind on the internet.  

In conclusion, cyberbullying is a tasteless way to poison the online community. Cyberbullying is the result of pusillanimity in the real world and pseudo-courage behind the screen. Cyberbullying has unfortunately become increasingly common over the last decade, and it is only getting worse. However, not all hope is lost; cyberbullying can be prevented and dealt with in a healthy manner. Sometimes, fleeing cyberbullying can be as easy as hitting the “block” button. After all, what is a keyboard warrior without their access to others?