“For me…if it’s not loving, uplifting, encouraging, or supportive, it doesn’t go up”.
That is some sound advice coming from our longtime brand ambassador and friend, Jane Linley-Thomas (East Coast Radio personality and KindnessCan cofounder), speaking on the topic of social media sharing and how best to navigate our communications on these digital platforms. We recently connected with Jane to chat about the issue of cyberbullying and what role we can all play in addressing the pressing subject.
It’s the month of love, and we find ourselves in a very different world from what we were in just 12 months ago. Lockdown has thrown us into the deep end of a new digital age, one of which experts only expected to start seeing in 5 – 10 years from now, and we need to learn and adapt quickly to a whole host of new cyber threats.
One of these issues is cyberbullying. And while it is not necessarily a ‘new’ form of bullying, it is one that has managed to increase its footprint in the new ‘real world’ / ‘digital world’ balance. Pre-Covid 19, South Africa was ranked as having the 4th highest rate of cyberbullying in the world, and since entering lockdown, we have seen a massive spike in cyberbullying – a trend that is not unique to South Africa, and one that doesn’t surprise Jane, as it’s the kind of result you could expect from the vulnerable state of society where fear and anxiety levels are at an all-time high.
“Not only are we trying to navigate everything else in a global pandemic, but we have all these added things that are really terrifying and you sometimes feel ill-equipped because this is kind of new ground for us”
Tackling cyberbullying is going to be a work in progress and one that will require a collective effort, but the good news is, we can all play a meaningful role by following some simple steps. Jane shares with us 5 simple actions we can take to combat cyberbullying through kindness:
If you’ve got nothing good to say, then don’t post it!
There seems to be a lack of accountability from behind a screen, which often leads to comment threads blowing up with remarks and comments that individuals would not normally say under ‘real world’ circumstances. Whether it’s a face to face interaction or one behind a screen, the age-old saying should still stand true – If you’ve got nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything.
We can’t read tone
There is a massive disconnect that happens online and that is because we can’t read tone. It is important to always take a step back before jumping to a reaction in the heat of the moment as we may be misinterpreting the communication.
Where is the love?
I always say to my kids, the person that’s giving you the hardest time on the playground is the person who needs the love. It can be difficult to try and address a cyberbullying situation with kindness, especially when someone has you against the ropes, but there are instances where this holds true and you might actually be seeing or experiencing someone’s call for help.
Disconnect from the situation
If things are getting out of hand or the conversations coming at you are just mean, then it’s time to be kind to yourself and disconnect from the source. Use the block button, leave the thread, untag yourself. There are some tools available to us to ‘turn off’ the interaction, because we shouldn’t have to waste our energy, especially in this day and age, in engaging and carrying around negativity.
Remember what social media was made for
Social media was meant to connect us and unify us…not to become a tool for spreading negativity. We are all in this space to share our successes and positive stories with our friends and loved ones. Let’s try to remember to use the communication tool the way it was intended and keep it a kind space.
“The fact that there’s a cyberbullying offering or insurance benefit just goes to show what it is we are dealing with and how our people are been treated”
So, whether it’s by being kind to ourselves, or to others, we can combat cyberbullying this ‘month of love’ through kindness. It’s also a comfort to know that through our personal cyber insurance offering, Cyber Rescue, you can have access to a helping hand when it comes to protecting you and your family from cases of cyberbullying.