Social bullying is deliberate, repetitive and aggressive social behavior intended to hurt others. This type of behavior generally includes verbal abuse, gossip or other actions that cause mental and emotional harm and social isolation for the victim. Schools, sports activities, colleges, domestic, online and work situations and neighborhoods are some of the places in which this type of bullying occurs.
The goal of social bullying is to belittle and harm another individual or group. In middle school, for example, bullying might take the shape of teasing unpopular children. Ridiculing another child’s clothes, making fun of the way he speaks, and mocking his academic achievements or his race or culture are examples of behaviors that a bully might exhibit to gain power over another child.
This type of bullying carries into adulthood in some cases. Such behaviors can be found among family members, in work situations, in college social groups, and in neighborhood activities. Socially sabotaging others by spreading rumors, constantly telling them what to do, and any other behaviors that intentionally cause shame and humiliation and exert control over others can be considered examples.
Social bullying is generally caused by a combination of factors. In almost all cases, the bully lacks empathy for his targeted individual or group. In some cases, he has learned this behavior from observing others, or he may have been the victim of bullying earlier in life. Jealousy is another cause, whereby an individual feels threatened by the characteristics or achievements of another individual and engages in bullying as a way to feel empowered and dominant.
The negative consequences of social bullying are extensive. Victims often suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation, and low self-esteem. Some victims turn to suicide or commit homicidal acts as a result of extreme mental and social pressures. Individuals bullied in childhood may carry the emotional wounds into adulthood, leading to depression, social isolation, and the inability to react appropriately to unjust situations.
Putting an end to this type of bullying generally requires a group effort. Submission on the part of the victim tends to perpetuate the injustice. Those who observe the behavior, such as teachers, students, co-workers, teammates, friends and family members, need to step in to intervene on behalf of the victim. Victims should not be made to feel that it is their responsibility alone to combat the abuse.
Curbing the behavior of the bully is most effective as soon as it occurs and more difficult once the person has found supporters and gained a greater degree of social power.