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“When you talk about bullying, it sounds like “Drakaris!”

Bloggers and a psychologist about bullying on the Internet

“When you talk about bullying, it sounds like “Drakaris!”

In the world, 65% of adults and adolescents face cyberbullying, according to a Microsoft study (2016). At the same time, adolescents are more likely to be harassed on the Internet more often than adults. Offline, the situation is not more optimistic. About 35% of school students around the world (in Russia - 27.5%) encounter bullying. This is stated in the research of the Higher School of Economics.

Every second Russian teenager becomes a witness or victim of online aggression, as well as a victim of grooming (he received a request to send a photo or video in nudity, a proposal to talk about intimate topics), every seventh was threatened with physical violence. About half of Moscow's teenagers are faced with cyberbullying more than once.

As part of the Earth Is Flat - How to Read Media project, Lana Gogotishvili met with a psychologist and bloggers to discuss their cyberbullying experience, find out how bullying works, how to stop it, and when it is important to ask for help.


Alexandra Bochaver, Ph.D. (Psychology), a researcher at the Center for Contemporary Childhood Research at the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics, a specialist at the Perekrestok Center;

Daria Serenko, feminist, artist, a teacher at the Higher School of Economics;

Maria Magdalena Tunkara, feminist, blogger.

Moderator of the conversation:

Lana Gogotishvili, editor of EIF.

Dasha: I can tell one of the stories when it all started with cyberbullying and ended offline. A few years ago I came to work in one library. I had an internal upsurge: a couple of months before that I became the best librarian in Moscow. It turned out that this [rank] has its costs.

The library union, where I worked, received content about me from an anonymous "well-wisher" - the video I found on my page on VKontakte [it was in the public domain], the old one, where I sit at home on the table with a glass of wine and my friend takes an imaginary interview from me and asks: “Dasha, what do you hate the most?” I say that most of all I hate men and libraries. At that moment, I just quit my old job - for the reason that I hate libraries.

This video was sent to all 240 internal document management staff as evidence of a violation of the librarian's code of ethics. I come to work, noticed that something has changed. Nobody in the elevator greets me. In the office, they say to me: “Do you already know what happened?”

They showed me a video. After that, I ran to the toilet to catch my breath. I was lucky that the management and the lawyer were on my side. But the problem was that another public opinion was needed.

The union has proposed convening a general meeting where I will give a speech, and they will vote whether I continue to work or not. The Directorate said that it was a friendly court, did not allow the vote, and recommended speaking in front of people.

Of course, I wanted to quit. But then I was leading one such a good project, and I wanted to do it.

The day of the meeting has come, where the final point is my speech, which I wrote for two days, lying on the floor and sobbing. I explained that at that moment I did not work in the library, that I had no purpose to offend the profession, that on that day my department was reduced and we drank at my house at a party. This is my privacy. And in the end, unfortunately, I burst into tears. Although I did not want me to sob. Since then, everyone began to pretend that nothing was happening. But periodically this situation came up. And it kept coming up for another year until I quit.

Sasha: I sympathize with the feelings of Dasha, it can be very difficult. If we consider the situation as abstract, it is quite typical. When talking with teens about the prevention of bullying, it is very important to recommend controlling the content: do not post on the Internet what can be found by your future employer and can compromise you. In this situation, there is a high risk of possible border violations later, because when a video is publicly available, anyone can accidentally watch it - and this is a mistake that, alas, everyone can make.

Lana: Why is that a mistake?

Sasha: This is a difficult question. When you upload a personal video, it’s hard to imagine yourself in such a possible situation, apply it to yourself, imagine that it will be very unpleasant afterward. We live in a fairly transparent world where there are fewer and fewer closed spaces.

Lana: Perhaps, on the contrary, condemnation from all kinds of institutions of personal posts is wrong? And it is better to carry out prevention with employers. Talk about non-interference in the privacy of employees.

Sasha: I think that different ways of resolving such situations are possible depending on the level of aggression. Here, it seems that the librarians took this as a kind of aggressive action against them and were ready to actively defend their honor. What do you think, how would it be best to complete this situation so that it no longer bothers you to live?

Daria Serenko

Dasha: Since collective mailing was used, then collective mailing should also be used in response. With a very clear leadership position on this issue. The leadership position was very clear, for which I am grateful. Another problem here is that there is no prevention. That is, in general, people see this not as an injury, but as a kind of action of solidarity against something.

Sasha: Unfortunately, we usually have little collective support practice. The asymmetrical response could be the collection of some kind of supportive messages from friends, employees - from someone who could report that the situation is not so. That there was an act of aggression towards Dasha by an unknown person who found the video and used it.

Dasha: Often bullying in institutions remains inside. People are connected by a new layer of ethics; all this cannot be endured. And even now, I’m not without fear putting it into public space, although I don’t work there. If you do not receive support inside, then you most likely will not receive support outside it, because you often cannot articulate into the outer space, as this threatens you, your workplace, or your employer.

Alexandra Bochaver

Sasha: This is one of the biggest problems associated with violence - with anyone, including bullying. Those who find themselves in the position of victim and witnesses tend to hush up and not to tell anyone. The fact that this is hidden within the family, organization, some community, allows violence to flourish further. And just the strategy that helps stop this is to attract external support, to make the situation of violence more open.

Lana: What are the usual consequences of bullying?

Sasha: Tough. They concern not only those who are victims of bullying but also witnesses and aggressors. The employees who received the video watched the development of the situation, simultaneously received a signal that they urgently need to close their videos and photos, where they are with a glass, in a bathing suit, in any form, it is desirable to close everything. They would not want to be in Dasha’s place. Therefore, for them, a safer strategy is not to stick out in this situation, not to stand up. This is typical of bullying situations at school. Quite similarly, when someone was already in the role of a victim - no one wants to sit with him. Children are afraid to get involved in support because it is unsafe.

Lana: What are the stages of a traumatic experience? When are you inside a situation when everything seems to be resolved and what then? What is going on in a person’s head?

Sasha: There are many studies specifically about school situations. These are long-term negative consequences - for the victim in the first place. These are headaches, abdominal pains, anxiety-depressive symptoms, various psychosomatic disorders, and so on. The decrease in self-esteem, alarming symptoms up to suicidal thoughts and actions. This is probably the most important argument when we talk with different specialists, with adults who work with children, what needs to be stopped [bullying], this is not just some kind of pedagogical act. He does not teach but does a lot of harm to children and adults.

Lana: Is it important to show in a public field that you have become a victim of bullying, that it hurts you, that the situation has crossed all lines?

Dasha: When I speak, I better understand what happened. When you see other people's amazing eyes, it convinces you that you are in your right state of mind. And it’s very important to make sure that you are sane. Because over time, all these unfair things begin to seem basic routine: it’s normal that your employer censors your Facebook posts criticize your Instagram photos. But this is not normal.

I'm not afraid that I will look somehow weak or vulnerable. On the contrary, it seems to me that when you talk about bullying, it sounds like "Drakaris!" You want to burn everything, and at this moment you even come out from the position of some strange force, which some people read not as a force, but as an opportunity to kick you again.

But more and more people believe that it’s normal to talk about it. It can be felt.

Sasha: How can one help a person who is in a vulnerable position when someone is chasing him in public? What can be done to support it?

Dasha: For example, some ideological incredible things share different feminists, but if a case about violence against a woman gets into the public field, then I see that our collective policy is to unite around her, in the comments show that there are many supportive people. Write a private message. Offer assistance. Write to some major media material if you have such a resource.

Sasha: Thank you, Dasha. I think this is very important. Witnesses play an important role in all bullying and cyberbullying stories. This is not a relationship between an employer and a specialist, a journalist, and a speaker. It is always a struggle for the attention of those who somehow relate to this or even do not want it. In this sense, probably instructing those who would like to help turn on, but do not understand how. Because it’s scary, anxious, and not entirely unambiguous. Therefore, I ask what a child and an adult can do when he is faced with the fact that someone is being insulted before his eyes.

Lana: Maria, tell me about your cases when you encountered cyberbullying because of what you are talking about on the blog.


Maria Magdalena Tunkara

Maria: At the beginning of [the existence of the blog], every time a hater came to me, I talked with him, tried to understand him. Then, when they became five a day, I became lazy, I began to ban them. Then I began to block access to comments so that they looked, suffered, and could not do anything. Then I wrote a resonant post about manspreading [the habit of some men to sit on public transport, legs spread wide. - Note Ed.]. A few hours later they posted a video where the girl poured water on men - fake. And that’s all. They ran to me ... I have never banned so many people.

And then I got in the face. I was walking back tired from yoga. The very center of St. Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt in a minute. This was a guy, relatively young, immediately ran away. And you're just standing there - you can’t even do anything special.

Lana: Did you feel scared then? Do you understand that events are connected?

Maria: Yes. I was scared, I stopped writing any posts that could cause such a reaction. If I have a choice, then I’m better off not writing about it. I have a memorable appearance. It's easy to recognize me on the street.

It's easier on the Internet - everything is happening faster. And by and large, a week passes - and that’s it. And when I was in school, they scoffed at me practically all the time. I even changed school, because at some point it became impossible. A guy who had a criminal record for murder was mocking me, but his mother was some kind of high-ranking official. Therefore, for me, the fact that evil comments are written on the Internet is truly not a big deal ...

Lana: Sasha, do you think such a short life of cyberbullying means that it is less traumatic than bullying for years at school? 

Sasha: Not necessarily. The situations that the girls describe are different in terms of impact, fetology, and the way they respond. It seems to me that support is important, that you can complain to your mom, your friends. This is to ensure that a person does not remain alone. The key idea of helping victims of bullying is to support them.

Lana: One way to deal with bullying is to talk about it in public. And what if you are not a public person?

Sasha: It is important to indicate to the aggressor that you are not defenseless, that you have friends, there are different methods by which you will defend your security in case of anything. For this, various algorithms were invented. Starting from what the sites offer, some technical solutions are to block the user. Send a complaint to those who administer these sites, forums, and so on.

Lana: How constructive is it to engage in dialogue with the aggressor?

Sasha: I think it depends on the situation. You can build a one-step communication and write a detailed answer based on one aggressive comment explaining why you think so, why one shouldn’t communicate with you like that, why you will make any further efforts.

To a greater extent, the work of a blogger or any other public figure is to work with witnesses - readers, viewers, listeners. Not only with someone who came to speak some vile things, but with other people who can learn something from you a borrow, join. The moment of rallying, identification of associations is very important. Here you are, Dasha, talking about feminists who rally shoulder to shoulder - “you offend not a specific Dasha, you offend us.” And you can respond on behalf of the community. And people who read accounts with the broadcast of such ideas, think about how to relate to this, is it worth joining. I think that in many ways these communications should be for them, not for trolls.

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