This article was published on January 24th, 2023
In the late 90s and early 2000s, internet usage became more mainstream as more families started getting home computers and signing up for dial-up. Fast forward to now, and everyone is online! With smartphones being the norm and every phone plan offering unlimited data on the cheap, it’s easier than ever to connect. On the one hand, this is great because it makes it easier to connect with others, foster relationships, and talk to people who like the same things you do.
However, on the other hand, it’s not without a massively negative impact either. With the internet comes the mask of anonymity, and with that comes the boldness to say whatever someone wants without any perceived repercussions, thus enters Cyber Bullying. Unfortunately, for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, this is a daily occurrence. DoSomething.Org reports that nearly half of LGBTQ+ high school students have been victims of cyberbullying.It’s not only high schoolers that are at the blunt end of this. Unfortunately, no matter the age, those in the LGBTQ+ community are faced with cyberbullying on a constant basis, and its negative impact is a heavy one.
As if getting bullied in person isn’t bad enough, cyberbullying brings that energy into one’s own personal space. Even in the privacy and security of one’s own home, they can’t find reprieve from hateful and horrible messages. This can lead to severe circumstances, such as depression, absenteeism from school or work, and, in the worst-case scenario, suicide. The statistics are alarming, with gay teens 8.4 times more likely to report suicidal ideation, and transgender youth at 27%! While many statistics and resources have a focus on cyberbullying in schools and focus on a younger demographic, please understand that it knows no age, and the internet allows for people well into their 30s and even 40s to still be victims of this awful, hateful behavior.
There are ways to combat this. While it may not be possible to hold the actual bully accountable due to the anonymity of the internet, there are ways to protect oneself. The easiest and fastest way is to simply block them. Don’t offer a response or be reactionary, as this is often what they’re looking for. It gives them the attention they want. If they continue to make a new account, they can be reported for harassment. Depending on the online platform, this may or may not change things, but often it can help.
Secure passwords and private accounts are another easy way to at least lessen the blow of a cyberbullying attack. Only letting those close to you have access to your accounts can ensure that what you post is shared only with those you trust. This is great advice for the younger members of the community. As you grow older, it does get easier. But it’s important to make sure you take care of yourself and communicate with the people around you if you’re being harassed and need help.
Ultimately, better education on LGBTQ+ topics would not only make gay students feel seen and welcomed, but also help in educating others. Ignorance often leads to hate, and this can spread so easily on the internet, breeding further ignorance and hate. People hate what they don’t understand, and the anonymity of the internet allows them to say whatever they please. Hopefully, with better education and setting our digital boundaries, we can help lessen the blow and put an end to cyberbullying.