by Isra Latif

What is bullying?

Here’s the dictionary definition: seeking to harm, intimidate or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable.

Even though I may have given you the definition, bullying is something that can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to measure in terms of its impact. Whether you yourself have experienced this widespread virus, or have been lucky enough to avoid it, or feel immune to it, every individual, child and adult, is aware that it exists. Why, then, does it so often go undetected?

What are its harms and why is it normalised in this ‘forgiving’ society?

Since bullying has become such a normalised part of today’s society, especially with the rise of incidents on social media, the focus has shifted from tackling the problem at its roots, to simply teaching people how to be resilient. Are we happy to send out the message that it’s now OK to bully because we’re teaching people how to better “deal with it”? This is the message that we’re getting.

Being fed and nurtured lies can create unrealistic ideas of who we should become. So, when seeing ideas like this on social media and real life, we slowly adjust to hide our feelings to suffocate ideas of weakness and emotions. Why? Because we’re taught to “get on with it.” Most professors of behavioural psychology agree that there are many side effects that start to creep into the lives of both the bullies and the bullied.Being bullied can lead to suppression of self-expression and feeling powerless. Suppressing emotions can detrimentally impact all aspects of life, whether it’s maintaining relationships, focusing on school, and self care, or generally trying to find a hint of motivation in your life. All these harms are extremely unhealthy and can stop us from reaching our full potential. As a bully, this could manifest into a false sense of control, lead to oppression and a life of crime. It can also lead to people becoming social pariahs, compelled to live a life of fantasy detached from the real world.

How do we abandon sources of negativity?

Of course, bullies will always be around; there’s no stopping this. One thing we can all do is join forces and play an active role to eradicate this disease once and for all. This takes courage, but we can’t expect others to stand up for us tomorrow unless we’re willing to step in for others when we can today. I believe a lot of bullies feed off others’ fear, so let’s show them we’re not scared. Also, social media is a cesspool of negativity. I’ve felt and seen just how deep-cutting the impact of social media can be. We can’t base our self-image and perception on the world on the ‘perfect’ lives on display like some deceptive catwalk where models struggle to breathe, suffocating in the false fabric of their make-believe lives. Oftentimes, we bully ourselves long before we hear others’ piercing words. Platforms like Tiktok can be useful, but are also littered with influencing trolls, claiming to be experts, who indirectly misdiagnose users for their own measly gain. With this in mind, it’s important that we fully manage those things that are in our control, such as our social media usage and phones generally. I’m not saying you have to cut it out completely, but certainly minimise its influence. From personal experience, I can tell you that not yet having a phone is the best thing to have happened to me. It has allowed me to lead a relatively stress-free life and be more involved with my family. You do have to ponder whether your social environment is doing you any favours for your mental health. In order to cleanse yourself of negativity, you have to filter the people you hang around with and think whether they’re not also bringing feelings of neglect and insecurity into your life. I’ll leave you with this:

“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you, doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”

~Lisa Olivera, Author