Bullying is a not a new problem but the ease at which it can occur has changed over the years. Specifically, digital media brings new dynamics to the situations where bullying may occur. It may take a bit of courage to bully another person in a face-to-face situation but when the need for live contact is removed, any person, great or small, can engage in the act.
During a face-to-face interaction with another human being, most people can control any impulse to harm or otherwise devalue the communication partner. Meaning, we refrain from acting out with free-range emotion even if we don’t like the way someone dresses, talks, or is basically “different” than what we think they should be. However, it may be with ease that the same self-regulated or self-controlled individuals feel free to express their opinions when sitting alone with their mediated devices.
Psychological interpretations of enhanced self-importance are common during mediated communication events. These narcissistic interpretations occur for various reasons with one main gist being the way in which we must visually construct an entire conversation even though the conversation is not occurring at that very moment — we somewhat pretend and act out a scene as though we are an actor. We imagine the reactions of others and unfortunately when doing so, those reactions may not be true to what would actually occur. Much of it is a fantasy. A serious part of this misinterpretation is that we assume others will fully comprehend our intent. Humor or anger will not always come through as intended during “blind” communication that lacks non-verbal cues.
A larger problem associated with bullying through mediated communication is the assumption of anonymity that many people will feel when communicating in this way. Even in instances when people choose to use their real names such as in a social forum, the disconnect of not being present in a live situation offers that sense of being invisible, immune, or otherwise safe to do or say whatever one wants. Instant emotional gratification takes over because the fear of instant retaliation is relatively non-existent. We can say something mean or hurtful and instead of waiting for a real response, we can walk away from the cell phone or computer and continue living out the fantasy of how we “imagine” the scene plays out.