About Me

My photo
I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today, as I looked to my reading, I stopped by The Feathered Nest to find out what my friend Delores had to say. Today, she wanted to talk on cyber bullying.

I thought I'd ramble on the thoughts that Delores provoked.

Bullying, naturally, has been around since the dawn of time. Literally, I'm willing to bet. Many of us have been targets of it, and few of us will admit to being the perpetrator. But the face of bullying has changed, it seems.

When I was a kid, my bullies looked like one of two images:

Either this guy (image from 20th Century Fox):

 Or this guy (found on an un-credited site...sorry!)

For contrast, I didn't start growing until I was around 20. Going into high school I weighed about 70 lbs and stood around 4'10". By the end of high school, I was a lot closer to 6', and weighed in just shy of 140 lbs. I had beefed up significantly. I was certainly a target!

Two basic rules of the bully back in that day:
1) They were physically HUGE, and targeted smaller folks or chubby folks who didn't have a following;
b) They were cowards who traveled in packs

These were, of course, rules of thumb. There were deviations from these stereotypes. Well, from the first one. I never found a bully who wasn't a coward and did all of their bullying with a handful of people of low fiber at their back.

The profile of the bully has changed though. They're still cowards, but now they do most of their bullying over the internet. My sense is that today, many of these bullies are female, whereas in my day, they were mostly male.

The results seem to have changed too. "Back then", a bullied kid might come home with torn clothes, or a black eye, bloody nose...whatever. Bullying often promoted a physical contest (one that was exceedingly one-sided). The old piece of conventional wisdom was that once you stood up to the bully, he would no longer bother with you. This wasn't always true, but it was true a significant portion of the time.

Today, there's no safe haven, really. You can't go home, or go on vacation. It isn't the case that you'll be out of contact with the idiots for the summer, and when you get back to school you'll find that you'd changed over the summer and were now bigger than your tormentor was. Today, over the internet, it's business as usual 24/7/365.

AND, the things that kids allow themselves to say to each other over the net is unbelievable. I think in large part because of the lack of today's personal nature of bullying, and the absence of the intimate relationship.

I'm reminded of a quote:
In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man.
~Alfred Hitchcock

If your bully is in your face, they can see the reaction of their words. In fact, that's what yesterday's bully was feeding off of. They could also see when they had crossed a line, though. When the rage flared in their target, or when the victim finally did snap and attacked. The act of bullying was a messy affair.

That feedback loop doesn't exist with cyber bullying. Today it's a cleaner thing to bully someone, and I think that this emboldens today's bully to heighten their callous behavior while at the same time not affording the victim what might be considered a legitimate outlet for the rage that is being sowed within them.

Bullies have never picked on other bullies. They don't pick on kids who kick puppies. They pick on the perceived weaker members of society.

The cowards are far more cowardly today than they were yesterday. Today, they don't even have the courage to face their victim. They weave their web of evil without ever affording their victim any true opportunity to respond. Remember that victims are often people who would not naturally engage in such toxic behavior (from my experience this is the case), so responses are somewhat rare, and don't carry the toxicity of the attack. And at the same time: the bully doesn't get any feedback, and really can't appreciate what a messy thing it is that they're doing. They've got no cause-and-effect until they hear that someone committed suicide.

I'm not arguing the yesterday's bully was a kinder, more gentle bully than today's, but the whole dynamic is different today than it was yesterday, and I think that these differences might be a big part of the reason that it seems like today, bullying results in suicides while yesterday it resulted in bloody noses. Of course, perhaps there were many suicides yesterday than we have heretofore been aware of...maybe we're just more aware of the suicides today?

I'd be interested to know how a bully feels when they hear that their victim has committed suicide because of the bullying? I wonder if they feel anything? For the rest of their lives?


  1. Well...in the case of the young lady from Bc....there have been facebook statements reading, and I quote, "I'm glad she's dead." Her memorial pages have been defaced. I think these people have lost all human connection. I shudder for their future.

    1. Not only do I shudder for their future - I shudder for ours.

    2. I agree...these are the people who threaten my faith in humanity.

  2. The worst thing about cyber bullies is that they can be completely anonymous. Like Delores said, the girl from BC still has people on her memorial page applauding her death. So not only did she have bullies following her in life, who people still can't seem to track down, but she now has them still following her in death. How sick is that?

  3. There's been a major immorality shift with so much anonymity. People think it's absolutely fine to have no morals or conscience. In fact, they think those who won't participate in being a foul, filthy article is a fool. In grad school in 1990, a prof was writing a book on the psychopathy of everyday life as he watched the rise of impersonality. I thought he was taking it too far but the reality is it wasn't far enough.

  4. Many of my students write research essays on cyber bullying. Consequently, I've learned how tragic it can be.

  5. A long silence from you my friend. Hope everything is well in your world.