Recently a number of influencers have come out with their personal experiences of online bullying by posting videos and screenshots of their messages.
What Does Online Bullying Look Like?
The online bullies (aka trolls) were allegedly posting malicious lies, and bizarre conspiracy theories, and attacking them personally. Unfortunately, there were different claims of drinking and driving, drug use, fraud, lying, bad parenting, and animal cruelty.
Sometimes these were comments left on social media posts or direct messages. Other times there were emails, including nasty name-calling and threats of violence. Sometimes there were even dedicated snark pages created.
Who is behind Online Bullying?
At the end of their wits, one influencer allegedly decided to hire an investigator (in digital forensics) to track down the identities of their bullies. This person was able to take records of all the messages and emails including screenshots. Then the investigator was able to analyze and identify who was behind the ‘anonymous’ messages.
Some of the influencer’s trolls thought it was a bluff. Someone thought it was just a publicity stunt. While others changed their username or deleted their online profiles. One person was genuinely regretful and wanted to send an apology email. Several others were anxious and worried about the consequences if their family or boss found out.
One poster claimed they could find another poster’s identity without much effort. For example, they could click on the person’s username and look at their archived Reddit posts. By doing a reverse image search on photos of her dogs, she found a Tumblr account with her full name and location.
The online bullies turned out to be a mixture of total strangers and people they knew in real life. Some of them had even posted positive messages using their real names and negative ones when using their anonymous accounts.
Online Bully Stereotypes
You might have a stereotype that an online bully or troll is an unsociable teenage boy living in the basement of his parent’s house. He’s wearing a hoodie, drinking soft drinks, and eating takeaway pizza. Alternatively, you might have the stereotype that trolls live overseas and are just trying to scam money out of you.
The main bully was allegedly identified and doxed. (Her username was shared in an Instagram post). As a result, it’s likely she was forced into removing her business website and all of her social media accounts. However, an online interview she’d participated in was still available.
The alleged bully was young and attractive with long blonde hair. She loved cats, vintage clothes, and cars. She ran a marketing company and won awards for her work. Other bullies were self-employed or stay-at-home mums.
What is Doxing?
Doxing is when someone leaks your personal information online, such as your email address, phone number, home address, or social media profile. (It comes from the word documents or .docx file extension). (Sometimes spelt with two xs – doxxing).
Doxing is potentially a criminal act and somebody could be countersued for loss of income and defamation.
What’s a Snark Page or Forum?
Snark is a combination of snide and remark. The term simply means sarcastic comments.
Snark pages, forums, or groups can be found on Facebook, Reddit, and other social media platforms. Usually, the posters are just venting and whinging, but sometimes they can be posting gossip, rumours, disinformation, and malicious lies.
These communities tend to be echo chambers filled with like-minded people. The posts tend to be one-sided and there is generally a lack of any healthy debate going on.
I’ve read a snark Facebook group who were against a popular fitness influencer. It’s common for fitness plans not to lead to the results promised, and sometimes they are too hard for beginners and anyone who is overweight. So when a person drops good money on one of these plans, it’s highly likely they might feel ripped off. These once loyal followers had turned nasty.
I’ve seen snark forums against people who are citizen journalists and influencers on social media. They might be a group of celebrity fans who are supporting one side of a legal case or situation.
Snark Moderation Rules
It’s common for these communities to have moderation rules. These might include rules like no armchair ‘mental illness’ diagnosing and no comments about physical appearance.
For example, NYCinfluencersnark is a community for discussion and snark about NYC Influencers. Their rules include “No attacking other users this includes bullying, harassment, doxxing, trolling, hate speech” and “No body shaming or body snark”.
I personally would not recommend joining or spending a large amount of time reading snark posts. The hyperfocus on one person is a tad unhealthy, and the negativity could become corrosive.
When Snarking Turns into Stalking or Bullying
However, the real issue becomes when snarkers make real-life contact or harassment. Then snarking can potentially turn into stalking.
Survivors of online bullies have described the experience as exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and painful. Online bullying is a serious crime and unfortunately, there are numerous cases where people have taken their own lives after being targeted by vicious online trolls.
Next time you post something mean online, ask yourself, “Would you say this to the person’s face in real life?”