October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Adult social manipulation and cyberbullying in online social groups is an insidious problem that impacts victims, bystanders and has a negative effect on the group social dynamic. It can be hard to identify and address this behavior since it is often expertly masked by serial bullies.
How to Identify Adult Social Manipulation & Cyberbullying in Your Online Groups
Almost all of us have come across -- or will come across -- a bully. It can occur at any time of our lives. A common myth about bullying is that it's only a problem in childhood. Adults can manage issues with other adults in a mature, informed manner, right? While it's true that adults can engage in mature conflict resolution strategies, it's unfortunately false that these strategies will altogether stop a bully. Adult bullies are very similar to childhood bullies. They are intractably disposed to coercing, dominating, intimidating, and manipulating others, especially those perceived to be more vulnerable. An adult bully can also be more subtle and sophisticated than a child bully, and the approach they take can elude identification and prevention.
Please keep in mind that bullying behaviors are not exclusively exhibited by online trolls or outspoken group members. You may be witnessing social manipulation and cyberbullying firsthand from leaders in your group if the following behaviors occur in the groups you're in:
Admins, moderators, or active, trusted group members assert their authority in subtle or overt ways that intimidate, insult, and dismiss other members.
People are often afraid to speak up, or only speak up to express what they know the admins, moderators, and active, trusted group members want to hear and will like.
Admins, moderators, or active, trusted group members spread gossip and rumors about other members, or they notice other members doing this and allow them to, even 'liking' their harmful posts.
Bystanders who were formally neutral, begin to engage in this toxic behavior. They are misguided into believing they are stating facts or helping others since they have absorbed the leaders' bully behaviors. They can become very aggressive in loyal support of the admins, moderators, or active, trusted group members.
Adult Bullying is Often Exhibited as Passive Aggressive Bullying
Passive Aggressive bullying behavior from adults is a form of bullying that is rampant through many of our online communities. It can be difficult to identify, and difficult to address due to the sophistication of some of the ways it manifests. It's not uncommon for victims of this type of bullying to feel the devastating effects of negative gossip and ridicule that occur more subtly.