Cyberbullying: I’ll Stop if You Stop

I recently became very involved with the question-and-answer online forum, Quora. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel discouraged; neither had I until two months ago.

Quora copies the format of other Q&A sites like Reddit where individuals can go online and pose questions to other people. However, Quora has some controls that other sites don’t have. For one, it makes a genuine effort to vet “subject matter experts” in their respective field. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a professional discipline, either. For example, you may not be working because you are a stay-at-home mother of four. But a great many first-time mothers may seek after that experience and knowledge. Those mothers may need an answer to a question about something pertaining to raising a child. You would certainly qualify (you qualify better than I do, anyway). Additionally, the golden rule on Quora is “BNBR”, or “Be Nice, Be Respectful”. It comes up frequently amongst Quora users. Users police their own.

It’s this BNBR concept that got me thinking… There are some brilliant, BRILLIANT people on Quora—physicists, engineers, physicians, linguists, etc. And, make no mistake, some of them know just how brilliant they really are. A question may be posed to them on their areas of expertise, and although their answers are accurate they are equally snide and belittling at times. These individuals typically have a large group of “followers” who monitor their every response. So, to play to the audience, the answers continue to be more snide and undermining. More followers join on to enjoy the theater, and the cycle repeats itself.

Now let me clarify; I don’t want to seem like I am picking on Quora; it’s honestly one of my favorite websites and the vast majority of Quora users are a welcoming, pleasant group. I encourage to you to go on the site and take a look (you can even look at some of my answers…. hint, hint). But admittedly, there are some bad apples in the fruit basket. These bad apples and their mocking answers still meet the stipulations of the BNBR policy, but it can still be embarrassing for the person asking the question. You can find these kinds of people all the internet-world over, even on a site that prides itself on mutual decency toward all users.

Ever been the student in the class who asked the “stupid question”? The class laughed, and maybe one kid said something that made you feel ashamed. Did you ever want to ask another question again? I know it happened to me more than enough in my life and all I wanted to do was see how low I could sink into my chair. I’ve asked worse questions than a CNN mediator during a Republican Debate.

The point that I’m getting at is, if you have been on any online social networking forum in the last ten years (Facebook, Quora, Reddit, Twitter, etc.) then you know what I am talking about. Now, take a moment and admit that you have piled on to someone else in one or more of these forums (yes, I have too). If you have, then guess what?

 

Congratulations! You’re a cyberbully.

 

These guys on Quora have a platform; one that feeds their belittling attitude to the masses. They have a following of people because they are very intelligent, and it is human nature to be attracted to insightful, intelligent people. But no matter what their expertise there is no place for treating others in such a way simply because someone asked a question.

If you want to be a positive influence in the community, one of the best, easiest things you can do is not take part in the Internet pile-on that is so popular. Our culture has expanded to a global community through the Internet, and BNBR should be a global policy on any online service that you use.

 

 

Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. Additionally, he is a weekly contributing writer to the online publication Robious Corridor and has been featured in the Huffington Post. Jason can be contacted at info@take-naps.org.