Imagine waking up to find out you’re a victim of revenge porn from a vengeful ex. Maybe your webcam had been hacked and was recording you without your knowledge. Perhaps your teen daughter sent a nude to a boy, in the hopes he would go out with her. Or a callous staff member at your mother’s nursing home filmed her undressing and posted it online for a laugh.

In Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate we discuss preventing, surviving and overcoming these kinds of digital disasters.

Today, we are seeing a rise in incivility online, while our innate empathy is dipping. So what can you do if you or a loved one becomes such a victim?

3 Steps if you’ve been digitally shamed (cyberbullied):

  • Document the evidence.
  • Tell someone.
  • Report and flag the abuse & block the offenders.

From the moment you realize you’ve been digitally attacked, you’re first instinct may be to hide or attempt to hit delete. Maybe you want to try to argue with the troll or perpetrator, but you must stay calm. As someone that has been here, I know it seems bad – really bad, but it will get better.

Screen shot and document all the evidence. It’s important you do this in case you need it at a later date. If you don’t feel you can do this, ask a friend to help you.

Tell someone. Let me repeat. Tell someone. Many people are either so embarrassed or humiliated that they don’t want to tell anyone. It’s important to have a friend to talk to — remember, this is never your fault. Even if you shared an image with a friend that you thought was going to be kept private, if they shared it – it’s not your fault.

After you have copied and documented all the evidence, report and flag the abuse to the platform. You can also write their help/support contact after reading their Terms of Service. Many social media platforms have zero tolerance for harassment and abuse. You may be able to have the posts removed by sending a note to the support team outlining how the post violates their TOS or Code of Conduct.

Cyberbullying is a dangerous problem in our society that continues to escalate as our social reach grows. Prevention and education is the only way to curb this trend. It’s up to parents, educators, students and communities to come together and be part of the change.

3 Steps to prevent online shaming of yourself — and others:

  • Be mindful of what you post.
  • Never post in haste.
  • Understand there is no rewind online.

Being responsible and respectful with our keypad should always be a priority. Before you hit send ask yourself: Will this embarrass or humiliate anyone? Do I have permission if it includes someone else’s picture?  Is there any personal information that shouldn’t be online (address, phone number, etc)?

Learning patience with social media can take time. Especially if you are a teenager. This is where parents need to step-up and discuss the importance of not posting when you’re angry or upset. It’s the age-old wisdom of never going to bed mad. Nothing good will come from it.

The web is public and forever. Once you hit send, it’s nearly impossible to retract. The cliché of the internet being the world’s largest tattooing machine is spot-on.

Rebounding with Hope

If you have become the latest member of Shame Nation, remember this: you are not alone. There are so many helpful resources now available, and those willing to help you through online shaming. Shame Nation is full of stories of hope and organizations, such as The Tyler Clementi Foundation, that are making a positive impact. There will always be people that will try to tear you down, but together, we will deflate this hate and make the online world a better place.

 

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Sue Scheff DrGreene.com contributor

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