Online Bashing Tells About the Basher
Online bashing has become very common in social media. It seems everyone who makes mistakes maybe a subject of ridicule and criticism. The major disadvantage and difference of a usual physical attack and online bashing is its anonymity and scale. Many bashers would hide themselves anonymous and gain more confidence to attack verbally the person at hand. Moreover, since the online space is literally unlimited so anyone could literally read comments and opinions, further aggravating and even tolerating the verbal attack. This makes online bashing as a grear threat to anyone in the social media today.
On its essence, online bashing is a non-physical verbal highly partisan and personal attack on an individual expressing dissent, non-comformity, irrelevance and weakness in being at par or within a certain standard of discourse or behavior, with the aim of influencing others to do the same against the person, express an opinion and either directly and indirectly gain from it. By this long and detailed definition, one could see that there are three elements of online bashing, its nature, content and goal. Its nature is simply non-physical, although online bashing could lead to violent physical attacks but naturally and usually, bashing on the internet is short-lived and limited to social media.
Moreover, the content of the attack is highly partisan and personal. Partisan means creating and highlighting difference on race, color, belief, appearance, work, philosophy, sexuality etc. This partisan attacks are often considered as as hominem attacks on which the person expressing his or her opinion is attacked, rather than focusing on the logical exchange of thoughts due to lack of arguments of the other side or any other reasons. Lastly, the end-result of online bashing is to discredit the person, not just by the original and first attacker, but through gaining approval of the attack from other individuals as well. The goal is really to have someone aggreing that such action is fine and could be accepted as socially-conforming inspite of its destructive nature.
Online bashing does not really make sense. However, many individuals are even engaged on it unconconsciously or deliberately. However, on the psychological point-of-view, online bashing reflects the use of defense mechanisms by the attacker or the so-called basher. This viewpoint is perhaps important to counter online bashers (although that maybe counterbashing as well, not recommended), rehabilitate perennial online bashers, identify their risk factors, possibly diagnose or treat them professionally. This is the focus of this blogpost.
Projection is one of the most common defense mechanism. When a person is stressed, one projects his or her anger to a less threatening person, such as someone on social media. That person is less threateninh because social media creates a shield that disallows being known entirely in the public. One could bash anonymously, thereby reinforcing the projection. Bashers may focus on attacking people, rather than confronting their own personal problems. Unfortunately, projection later develops to paranoia, since attacking people is a reflection of lack of trust of the people around. That lack of trust may emanate from childhood and previous experiences the attacker would want to forget or cope with.
Behavioral modification are sometimes to minimize one's stress, such as compensating for a weakness on one life area with another. In relation to online bashing, bashers might consider their negative bullying behavior in the internet space as their strength, such that it would convince themselves that they are not as weak as they think at all. On the other hand, bashers might identify themselves with the person they attacked, but they are ashamed of showing empathy or support, so they resort to online bashing instead. The person attacked is perceived as a weakling by the attacker, who has low self confidence as well. To compensate for the weakness inside, the basher finds ways to show his or her superiority by bullying or bashing that certain individual.
Many bashers resort to rationalization and intellectualization as defense mechanism. In this way, they find both logical and illogical reasons to hide their own personal weaknesses. They may cite research finding to divert logical discourse to a kind of conversation they could control. They demonstrate their cognitive prowess in justifying everything they say is right. Although coping mechanism does not give anyone the authority to judge one as good or bad. However, online bashing may root from a cognitive need to express one's thoughts, show superiority in reasoning and eventually hide the underlying personal problems they have, even without resolving them adequately.
This blogpost seeks to shed light on a perspective that in able to stop online bashing, one should undestand why online bashers do so. Blocking or ignoring them are ofcourse quick fixes, but on the long-term, it does not do anything significant and beneficial to both the person verbally-attacked and the attacker. They will be both vulnerable psychologically-speaking. However, if there is no remedy in stopping the bashers, perhaps there should be an agreement that online bashers should be ignored totally, as if they do not exist. Let them do their stuff without getting any reaction, both positive and negative. In psychology, what one is attempting to prevent is the positive reinforcement of a bad behavior. Online bashers do this by eliciting reactions to their verbal attacks, so by not getting the reaction that they expect and desire, online bashers will just go deep down the spiral and eventually stop a meaningless, insignificant negative action in the internet space.