Social media is meant to bring us together, but for Mike Anderson it left him feeling more alone than ever.
“I’ve had someone messaging me, harrassing and threatening to bash me,” he said.
“There’s also been experiences where I’ve had a mean comment on a post or a negative tag.”
The 21-year-old from Western Australia said cyber bullying affected his friendships because he didn’t feel like he could talk about his experiences online.
“Social media is obviously very social but it can also be really isolating and make you feel like there’s nobody there to support you or help you,” he said.
“It makes you not want to engage with the platforms anymore.”
Mike’s not alone in his experience.
Youth mental health organisation Headspace surveyed 4000 young Australians aged between 12 and 25.
Fifty-three per cent said they’d been bullied online.
Changing face of bullying
Headspace’s Nick Duigan said social media platforms are challenging the traditional definition of bullying.
“Bullying has always been seen as a repeated experience of someone trying to hurt or harm you socially or physically,” he said.
“With cyber bullying it can be shared to thousands of users or more and so that definition of repeat exposure is really hard to replicate in the cyber bullying sphere.”
He said there’s been a rise in young people being bullied online and social media is where it happens most.
“Part of it is because young people are spending more time online,” he said.
“But it’s also because of the number of social media platforms that are out there, which means there are so many different avenues through which this can occur.”
Mike Anderson said he’s not surprised that more and more young people are being bullied online.
“Social media allows someone to harrass you without having to see your face and they can be pretty much anonymous,” he said.
“We need more education around what is an appropriate interaction online, how to seek support, and how to get out of those situations without disconnecting from the platform.”
Nick Duigan from Headspace agreed.
“Report it to the platform on which the bullying occured, collect evidence of it, tell a friend, your school or workplace and then together those people can decide if you need to get the police involved,” he said.
“We want to make sure people know it’s not okay, that it has a big impact on young people and that there are lots of things that can be done to help you.”