Are You a Cyberbully Without Even Knowing It?
- Have you ever copied and pasted something on facebook because it said to do so?
- Have you ever shared a graphic on Facebook because it said you should?
- Have you ever forwarded a message in Messenger because you were told to do it?
It’s all too common for the average Facebook user to take things that are posted online at face value.
As an avid reader of our articles, you have become well informed on the do’s and don’ts of social media. You understand what it takes to have a better, safer and more convenient online experience. You have the knowledge on how to use the right tools and you comprehend online habits and behavior. However, some of you may be participating in cyberbullying and online manipulation without even knowing it. How is this possible, you ask?
Chain letters, which are most often copied and pasted onto a Facebook page or in Messenger chat, could be considered a type of bullying or at the least, a way to manipulate others.
We touched on cyberbullying in our Sept. 2018 article, “The School Year is Here. Let’s Talk about Our Children.” There we discussed how to be proactive in regards to online bullying of children by offering tips on how to recognize, respond and manage it. Now, let’s talk about how adults are often bullied by chain letters and requests to share certain posts.
When you receive a chain letter, you may feel a sense of panic and a necessity to share it right away because you are under the impression this is urgent and “trending news”. The information you’re sharing is coming from a trusted source, a friend. It clearly states in the post to share it with more people so they too can become aware of its content. But do you know if the content of the post is even true?
When you are unaware that you are spreading fraudulent information and ask your friends to do the same, you are part of the problem. You have now gone from being a victim of cyberbullying to becoming a cyberbully. By circulating the chain letter and requesting them to reshare the urgent content within the chain letter, you have instilled paranoia, panic, and fear into your friends.
Because you have friends who trust your judgment, they are blindly manipulated by your request to reshare. Understandably, they may feel like they are being helpful by participating in a productive part of an online social circle. Your friends don’t want to miss out on anything, especially something you’ve said is important. In fact, the friends who reshared your post have now become a part of the vicious cycle of bullying and manipulation.
“An attorney advised us to post this. Good enough for me. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you do not publish a statement at least once, it will be tacitly understood that you are allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in your profile status updates. I HEREBY STATE THAT I DO NOT GIVE MY PERMISSION.”
The above chain letter is just an example of how someone is able to manipulate and take advantage of Facebook users. They control the user’s behavior by instilling a fear that Facebook is violating their privacy.
Some friends may reply to the post by saying, “thanks for the info” and they will copy and paste the contents onto their timeline. Other friends that already know that the chain letter is a hoax will comment on it, for all to see. Condescending remarks are not uncommon and often include scolding and shaming the poster for sharing such bogus information and to remove it from their wall. The Facebook user can be embarrassed by this. Not only have they been manipulated by the author of the chain letter, but their friends have also bullied them because they shared it. You may not be the kind of person to be bothered by sarcastic remarks from your friends on your posts, but there are others out there who are more sensitive to ridicule and don’t handle it the same as you.
By the way, “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court” actually relates to war crimes, crimes of aggression, humanity and the crime of genocide. It has nothing to do with a public entity or violation of a Facebook user’s privacy. There is no attorney that approves this message or would even come close to condoning it.
Sadly, we can all easily fall victim to chain letters and scams. Many of us have been lured into sharing information that isn’t true. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable when it comes to being targets for chain letters and cyberbullying. It has been reported that people over 65 years of age share more fake news and chain letters than any other age group. Today’s seniors are gradually becoming more informed on how to use smartphones and the Internet, but many are still in the dark when it comes to scams, online bullying and the basics of the Internet do’s and don'ts. Seniors are also less likely to do research on information or posts that they find online, typically because they don’t have the knowledge and skills to do so. Scammers and cyberbullies have gotten very good at what they do, often presenting themselves as helpful assistants. You can help your senior family members or friends by talking to them about the importance of not responding to chain letters and interacting online with strangers. Share this article with them and explain that chain letters are not a viable source of news.
"This is good to know: It's ridiculous to have 176 friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post."
We’re sure you’re familiar with this one. It is a portion of another chain letter that is also being copied and pasted all over Facebook. It is not entirely true. Facebook works with algorithms like everything else online. The people you interact with most will populate your news feed first, which averages about 20 or so of your friends. You can click your "News Feed" and choose "Most Recent" instead of the default, which is "Top Stories".
It is time for us to stop the “copy and paste this” and the “please reshare that” posts. When was the last time you shared a coupon for Costco or Kohl’s believing that is the only way to claim them? You may not have shared them but you have definitely seen them. They blend right into your newsfeed like legitimate coupons. These type of reshares are just like chain letters. Fraudulent. There are so many examples of online manipulation and we see it daily. Schoolyard “Simon Says” is one thing, but we know who is in control of that game when we play it. The original author of chain letters is not someone we know or trust and should not have control over how we use our social media.
There are many resources available online that will help you to learn whether something is true or not, and remember, declaring anything on your Facebook wall does not make it a true legal action. In our years of experience, the Green Strategy Social Media Team has not found any legitimate piece of information that requires the need to be shared on social media for it to work.
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