Digital Shaming: 10 Ways Online Gossip Turns into Cyberbullying

09/26/2017 08:26 am ET
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Gossip can be mean. Bullies can build on rumors, create stories and ugliness about a student (or anyone) that can go viral in seconds.

In today’s internet age, gossip can be spread at lightning speed to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. This new party line is cyberspace — where millions of people can access the same information instantaneously. It’s only a click away on a smartphone, tablet or desktop — and cyber-shaming can start like a wild-fire.

10 ways people (including kids) can use technology to rapidly spread gossip:

  1. Email – One way to spread a rumor quickly is to send an email to all the contacts in your account, except the one the rumor is about, of course. Then they can forward it to all their contacts and on it goes from there. You better hope they delete your name when they forward it, or you might get blamed for starting it.
  2. Facebook – Post your gossip on facebook and all your friends will know about it instantly. If they “like” it, comment on it or repost it, all their friends will see it too. Pretty soon you’ve got the rumor spreading quickly.
  3. Instagram – Another social networking sight great for gossiping is Instagram. Post an innocent picture and watch a rumor start and spread like wildfire.
  4. Twitter – You can tweet a rumor and all your Twitter followers will know your juicy gossip in 140 characters or less. They can re-tweet it to all their followers and in no time the gossip is flying through cyberspace.
  5. Blogs – Some people love to spread gossip through their blogs. Even unintentional rumors are sometimes started by bloggers.
  6. Website – You won’t believe some of the stuff you find posted on websites, and you shouldn’t either. There are whole websites put on the web just for the purpose of spreading misinformation. Always remember to check their sources.
  7. YouTube – If you have a registered YouTube account you can upload an unlimited number of videos. If you have a video of someone doing something dubious, this is the best way to spread that rumor to millions of viewers.
  8. Comments – A great way to anonymously spread gossip is to post a comment on a website, blog or YouTube video. You can log in under an assumed username and say all kinds of outrageous things without revealing your identity.
  9. Chat rooms – Another anonymous way to spread rumors are internet chat rooms. You can start with an offhand comment and embellish it as you go.
  10. Texting – If you see or hear something juicy to gossip about, you can send a text message to all your friends. That will get the thumbs flying as the rumor gets spread.

Social media has taken gossiping to a whole new level. Unfortunately this can lead to cyberbullying and be very traumatizing to vulnerable people. Celebrities and politicians are easy targets for internet trash and careers are ruined by unintended tweets.

Everyone should use technology responsibly, but many abuse their privileges. Be careful what you put out into cyberspace or it may come back to haunt you and always check the sources of what you see or read. Don’t get fooled by disappearing apps, such as Snapchat. Many have learned their lessons the hard-way as I share in Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate.

Thanks to screen capture, even a deleted post can be preserved forever. This holds true even on platforms like Snapchat, whose core promise to users—that shared images will quickly vanish—has been known to fail. Just ask the nineteen-year-old day-care worker from Mesa, Arizona, who posted to her Snapchat Story a photo of herself, seemingly giving a child the middle finger, along with the caption “swear i love kids!” While these were supposed to expire after twenty-four hours, is it any surprise that she was terminated after parents saw the photo and brought it to the attention of her bosses?

Understand that once something is posted, there is no rewind or delete key.

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