Enough Is Enough
Before the internet, bullying mostly happened in person. Although traditional, or “schoolyard,” bullying remains a serious problem worldwide, in recent years, cyberbullying has become prevalent. This type of bullying occurs when individuals use digital technology to send or post aggressive, embarrassing, cruel, or hateful messages about someone in order to intimidate, harass, shame, and hurt that person. These electronic forms of communication include social media posts, online game behaviors, email, and text messages. Examples include sending or posting offensive, harassing, threatening, or inflammatory messages, false information, and embarrassing photos or videos.
Compounding this issue is that victims of cyberbullying often don’t tell anyone about it. We need to be aware of common signs and symptoms that are exhibited by affected individuals so that we can recognize them in colleagues. These signs and symptoms can include lowered self-esteem, increased depression and/or anxiety, health problems (e.g., stomachaches, headaches), detachment from others, sudden anger/rage, and self-harming behavior such as cutting. We also need the tools to fend off and stop this behavior when it’s aimed at us personally or our practices.
“Life is a ﬁght, but not everyone’s a ﬁghter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.” — Andrew Vachss, Terminal
Approximately 1 in 5 veterinarians surveyed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2014 reported that they had themselves been victims or knew colleagues who had been victims of cyberbullying. The reported incidents ranged from the posting of false online reviews to threats of physical or financial harm. The AVMA subsequently started a 24/7 hotline as a support system for victims (626-531-1140). Members can get 30 minutes of consulting time for free that is completely confidential. If additional guidance is needed, a discounted rate is offered.
In 2015, the AVMA developed resources to develop best practices for preventing cyberbullying. The AVMA’s Online Reputation Management page has a Social Media Response flowchart and a customizable template, which can help veterinary clinics plan when and how their veterinary and support staff will respond to cyberbullying attacks. Additional resources are listed below.
In this electronic age, it’s all too easy to be targeted by this type of attack, but it’s not as easy to know what to do to protect against, prevent, and fight back against a cyberbully. It’s crucial to be vigilant and to act swiftly when you, your colleagues, or your business becomes the victim of cyberbullying.
Enough is enough.