Information on the Internet has in many ways made life easier than ever before. Despite its advantages, the online availability of decades of data has had a damaging effect on personal and business reputations. In the past, the passage of time could help people overcome negative life experiences, but now, those events persist in an online world that never forgets. Long ago, cyberbullying, the hostile use of negative information became a significant problem for school-aged children and young adults. Now, the practice of using the negative information available about a person to harass mature adults has taken center stage.
The Evolution of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying now affects people from every age group, testifying to the persistence of online information and the bullies who misuse it. Even worse, the children who were cyberbullies during their formative years have no hope of freeing themselves from the effects of the damaging or embarrassing details of their past. Thanks to online access, everyone from employers to prospective romantic partners can find out everything that has ever happened to a person, perpetually punishing individuals who have either made mistakes or endured negative experiences.
Despite the maturity of the Information Age, cyberbullies have failed to outgrow their destructive behavior. The Internet has responded harshly to people who would have otherwise hoped that they could bury their past and look forward to a pristine future. Thriving online venues dedicated solely to uncovering and publicizing damaging information about particular people ensure that people might never repair reputations that were damaged earlier in life.
Some businesspeople have made cyberbullying their livelihood. Spurring a rise in the number of websites that profit from the misery of others. One site gives an illustration of how the cyberbullying industry has flourished. JuicyCampus became a popular online forum for sharing rumors and opinions of classmates. After its inception, the site spread quickly to more than fifty U.S. Colleges and attracted thousands of users. Two years later, the controversy over the site, highlighted by threats against students and teachers at one particular school, forced the site to close. Other sites focusing on specialized bullying soon took its place.
Specialized cyberbullying sites such as ShesAhomeWrecker.com and others have easily categorized people by their supposed transgressions and indiscretions, boosting profits and setting a pattern for the current cyberbullying industry.
Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who became Bill Clinton’s mistress during his tenure as President of the United States, serves as a high-profile example of a cyber-bullied adult. She has led the effort to increase public awareness of cyberbullying and start a discussion of how to address the growing social issue. After news of her torrid affair emerged, Lewinsky endured four decades of non-stop online harassment and shaming. Everyone from First Lady Hillary Clinton to average people on the street piled on to damage her reputation and make sure that everyone knew what she did and what people thought about her.
Lewinsky emerged from her shame as she gave a recent Ted Talk that detailed her instant transformation from an obscure private individual to a globally humiliated woman. Most of the cyberbullying that taunted her occurred before the existence of dominant social media sites such as Facebook. Still, cyberbullies did their work via online forums and bulletin boards as well as email. Everyone soon knew her by one or more of negatively charged words. She was forever branded as a slut and Bill Clinton’s bimbo, rather than as a multi-dimensional person with inherent value.
Victims of cyberbullies now look to Lewinsky as their beacon of hope. Her willingness to publicly share her experience and fight for the rights of people whose reputations have been mercilessly destroyed by cyberbullies. She has inspired other victims to tell their stories and reach out to others in pursuit of healing.
Cyberbullies continue to grow in number as do the venues that enable them. Fortunately, a the reputation management industry has emerged to counter the ongoing threat. People can choose to hire a trustworthy online reputation management company to mitigate the effects of cyberbullying and give people a chance to establish a good reputation.