Now this may come as a surprise, but my wife had me watching Love Island…not sure if she is trying to tell me something or because she sees the connection to what Defuse does…dealing with abuse not solving dating issues!
When I saw the following headline my heart sank, as it really just isn’t that simple!
Love Island’s Harley breaks silence on “horrible” trolling she received while in the villa, stating that “I’m going to take everything with a pinch of salt.”
It sounds easy, just ignoring it. But when social media becomes your life blood, the oxygen that fuels your blossoming career, its easier said than done. During the show, the contestants have been closeted by much of what has been said and communicated. Not all of the Social Media and online chatter will be positive, in fact most won’t be. As they strive to carve out media opportunities, their talents and personal lives will come under significant scrutiny from critics. Equally, their relationships and feelings for one another, genuine or otherwise, will come under immense pressure, potentially forcing them to stay together when they don’t wish to or splitting up when they want the opposite.
One of the services that Defuse offers is interpreting communicated threats and abuse, in effect sifting out the noise and finding the genuine threats or evidence of escalation. This isn’t as simple as it may sound but based on researched academic studies and with experience of dealing with literally thousands of pieces of unwelcome communications to MPs over the past few years, Defuse have become experts at this.
Experience has shown that despite being very strong and driven personalities, MPs often have a tipping point, and find that the abuse and threats slowly creep up, causing them to become ever more cautious, paranoid and for some ultimately catastrophizing every sound or event they encounter. This is completely normal behaviour, and as we have learnt with PTSD, it really doesn’t matter how tough or seasoned you are, anyone can suffer. Equally, not everyone will share their experiences, suffering in silence until it feels that they simply can’t go on. Sadly, Love Island has experienced the most tragic of endings for more than one contestant.
An additional service that Defuse offers its clients, is the opportunity for a therapeutic intervention, working with one of our experts they can work on the issues that are often a bi product of the abuse they receive. Following reports of another contestant already at breaking point, it is great to see that this is now recognized as important by the producers of Love Island. The sad truth is, she is likely to just the first, but the question must be asked, who is dealing with the trolls?
Bullying can be devastating, as recent events have shown and calling it cyber bullying or trolling doesn’t make it any better. I’m not a psychologist, albeit some would argue that spending the best part of 3 decades in the police may qualify you as one, but I have dealt with bullies on almost every day of my career. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the ones online can be more harmful because you don’t know who they are and so never know how close they are. Quite rightly we have started to take bullying more seriously. When I was a child and bullied at school, I was told to stand up to them and fight back, but I continued to encounter them at school, in the army and in the police.
Part of the issue is the lack of control. You feel powerless and it can be even more complicated if you a public figure. The advice we have always given is to ignore them, rather than try and debate or convince them they are wrong. They want to provoke a reaction, so don’t give them one. Blocking them online can help, although as an expert, I’m looking for escalation, and when blocked this may happen unnoticed.
What is important is to seek help, both in terms of dealing with the bullies and to understand whether they are an actual threat, and to see whether they have committed any offences or breached codes of conduct. It isn’t always possible to identify who is sending online abuse and this can prove frustrating. That said, despite the fact that many are quite technically proficient at hiding their identities, they often leave a trail and with time can be discovered.
Despite everything I have said above, there is significant research that suggests that abuse, threats and intimidation communicated via social media is evidence of a diminishing threat and that because it is so easy and dislocated from reality, poses very little threat in itself. That doesn’t diminish the harm it can cause but it can reassure the person being targeted. Hate Crimes can be especially harmful and are often criminal, so should always be dealt with seriously.
Reassurance is important with much of the harm existing in the targeted person’s mind. Measures such as conducting physical security reviews to ensure they feel safe at home as well as Online Vulnerability Audits to highlight areas of concern to be mitigated, and where applicable cease and desist notices served can help give a feeling of power being reclaimed and may have a powerful effect.
The truth is that should you become a victim of such bullying behaviour, Defuse can help and are hugely experienced at doing so. You do not need to suffer in silence.