24 November 2022
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Dark corners of the digital world

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      Offices, schools, corporations, and society at large place a high importance on the prevention of online abuse and cyberbullying. The regrettable possibility of harassment and abuse in online settings exists as the globe gets more linked. This is sometimes connected to offline encounters, other times it is only online. This article will address online harassment and bullying as immoral and occasionally unlawful conduct using interpretivism, cognitive dissonance theory, and spiral of silence theory. Additionally, there are possibilities to engage proactively, which can lessen the possibility that our internet relationships will become hostile settings. As a result, this article suggests proactive preventive and intervention options for cyberbullying and online harassment, including offline initiatives and community-engaged approaches, and it goes into depth about the laws and legislation that govern this process.

 

Bullying and harassment have a detrimental effect on productivity, mental and physical health, and workplace decorum. It may have far-reaching effects on both the individual and the company. Communicating via behavior. So what may possibly be said when someone abuses or harasses someone else online? Sadly, several studies have found a connection between online harassment or bullying and increases in physical violence, which emphasizes the urgent need for preventative and intervention measures. How could preventative tactics be influenced by the concept of conduct as communication? Through the interpretivism worldview and the theoretical framework of the spiral of silence theory and cognitive dissonance, the relationship between online bullying and harassment and this concept of conduct as communication will be thoroughly examined.

Using this conceptual framework, it is possible to gain a deeper knowledge of online bullying and harassment by relating it to theories that explain the phenomena as they are seen when laws, regulations, and preventative methods are examined. The prevention of cyberbullying and online harassment has to be better understood and researched. Although there are a ton of studies on bullying prevention and a ton more studies on the effects of cyberbullying on or on the environment, there is less academic research specifically on cyberbullying prevention strategies, so some of the crucial information benefits from extrapolation of the overlap from either cyberbullying effects studies and/or corresponding bullying prevention strategies, have also been noted in other important research on the prevention of cyberbullying.

 

In addition to the current research on cyberbullying prevention, several look at demographics of children or students. The rules are extremely clear and frequently apply equally to online bullying and harassment as they would to offline bullying and harassment, despite the fact that research and policy may occasionally differ or be fragmented. In general, communication is crucial to creating and nurturing an atmosphere where online bullying and harassment may be stopped, or if it already has occurred, can be recognized and addressed through legislation and policy.

Online harassment and bullying laws may exist at the federal, state, or municipal levels. The patchwork of legislation varies depending on a person’s residence, the location of the cyberbullying incident, the organization’s headquarters, among other things. No of the setting, a few broad principles govern this procedure. The rules pertaining to online bullying and harassment are crucial to understand, but it is always advisable to get legal advice before contemplating filing a claim.

Many of the laws mentioned are particularly mentioned in relation to discrimination, with implied or declared consequences for harassment as noted. Although harassment and discrimination are distinct, bullying or harassment can be a sign of discrimination. For instance, if someone is consistently passed over for promotions while being harassed online, a harsh workplace that led to mental health crises, and other factors can all be considered harassment under the law, including discrimination and online bullying. 

 

There is a close relationship between interpretivism and communication (good or negative communication, including online abuse). According to the interpretivism worldview, humans are recognized in the environments they are investigating, and their particular presence therein contributes significantly to the gathering and analyzing of data. Individuals’ values, ideas, and perspectives shape their methods of knowing and create a world that corresponds to those.

According to this interpretivist viewpoint, an organization may be understood in terms of its members, and the everyday methods in which it is expressed are influenced by the varied collection of people who serve as its representatives, taking into consideration their cultures, histories, and personal realities. This implies that humans have an impact on the areas they occupy just by being there. It is crucial to consider the impact of cyberbullying and harassment via this worldview to comprehend the possible effects it may have and the significance of preventing and curtailing behaviors.

 

About cognitive dissonance

 

   When one piece of knowledge directly contradicts another, this is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs frequently at the workplace because there are so many beliefs, ideas, goals, and ambitions congregated there, but it may also occur when an environment that is intended to be safe harbors online harassment or bullying. Additionally, the nature of online bullying or harassment may be extremely covert or subtle, making it challenging to recognize or become aware of the harm being done, adding an additional degree of cognitive dissonance.

Applying cognitive dissonance theory to problematic behavior has been shown to have significant and beneficial effects. For instance, cognitive dissonance proposes that a person strives to feel more psychologically comfortable by eliminating the internal conflict and aggressively avoiding settings that might generate it again when trying to comprehend unfavorable or damaging conduct like online bullying or harassment. Even when attempting to “simply ignore the problem,” this may be quite troublesome in many situations and remove a vital team member from job or educational possibilities.

According to a research, civic participation and social support can assist people fight cognitive dissonance and misleading information. Scholars have determined that cognitive dissonance research might “be employed to lessen preconceptions and bias” despite the fact that the theory has long been used to explain and affect behavior. Online harassment and bullying can occasionally take place in a setting where there are implicit or overt prejudices or stereotypes towards certain groups of individuals. In situations like these, cognitive dissonance theory is a tool that may be helpful to overcome the difficulties that are present, and there is a chance to apply cognitive dissonance theory for good.

 

About the spiral of silence theory

 

     According to the spiral of silence theory, when one voice grows stronger, all other voices progressively become mute (McDevitt, Kiousis, Wahl-Jorgensen, 2003). According to McDevitt and colleagues’ 2003 study of online chatroom transcripts, however, the end result of ideas being expressed through a computer-facilitated or new media platform can be what they refer to as a “…spiral of moderated online expression” where opinion expression is much more open as a result of the diminished fear of isolation presented by traditional face-to-face communication. The results of the study by McDevitt and colleagues are supported by Ruddock, who writes that “the relative lack of social sanctions…meant that perceived majority opinion may be anticipated to have less inhibitive force” (Ruddock, 2007, p.43).

 

The similarities between online bullying and harassment and online comments are evidence of the spiral of silence hypothesis, both in theory and in practice. The spiral of silence idea was more suited for interpersonal settings where individuals interact face-to-face, according to Ruddock, who said that it “may not be anticipated to function in new media contexts” (Ruddock, 2007, p. 43). Regarding internet bullying, this is a crucial factor.

 

Roughly, there is a theoretical framework based on interpretivism, cognitive dissonance, and the spiral of silence for behaviour that theorizes a connection between the practical difficulties encountered in dealing with online bullying and harassment. However, organizations, practitioners, academics, and researchers may better influence, forecast, intervene in, and prevent behavior by understanding the underlying academic studies connected to this topic, keeping people safe.

 

It is advised to humanize and connect individuals offline in an effort to influence behavior online in order to intervene or prevent online harassment or bullying before it occurs. By bringing people together in person in meaningful ways, organizations may help make individuals human. People must be better safeguarded in meaningful conversations right from the start in order to stop the escalation of unpleasant interactions in online environments. The arrangement of legislation, policy documents, and training manuals are the main sources from which policies pertaining to cyberbullying and online harassment often derive. Additionally, documents pertaining to at-will employment or anti-harassment may be signed during onboarding.

 

Opportunities led by individuals, for people who may later gain from provided preventative measures that have been found to be effective include reflection, mediation, education, coaching on conflict prevention, coaching on resilience, discussion, and awareness. Despite the value of each of these, a study indicated that coaching and discourse were the most helpful. Each technique focuses on the individual, emphasizing interpersonal connections as a means of finding answers, ending the cycle of silence, and attempting to reconcile cognitive dissonance with real-world application of practical abilities in a variety of fields. Studies included inquiries into nursing, military, and global contexts. It’s interesting that each intervention was carried out either through a seminar or a more active learning project group, with member checks used to record data pertaining to the intervention and backing from the executive branch specifically for the fight against cyberbullying.

 

While lecture or seminar style courses have been shown to be the least effective, coaching, active learning, community engagement, conflict management, and handbooks have all been shown to be essential elements of successful prevention strategies. Prevention policies have also been shown to be effective. For optimum buy-in, policies are executed with support from the team’s leadership and members themselves. Although less common because of the need for further study in these fields, the alternative tactics of deliberate coaching and active learning have been proven to be successful. A potent employee handbook of policies with continuing learning and refresher opportunities, small group activities linked to conflict resolution, and other preventative techniques would make up an effective prevention strategy combination.

 

Through offline interventions and preventative techniques, many aspects of cognitive dissonance theory that manifest in online and digital contexts can be meaningfully and destructively diffused in a more involved society. When there is tension between individuals, there is also tension between societal expectations and actual behavior, which may cause cognitive dissonance.

This theory might assist direct intervention tactics since it suggests that when faced with cognitive dissonance, people look for new and alternative explanations that have lower conflict. Organizations might portray themselves as a place where all of its members are treated seriously when it comes to online abuse and cyberbullying. There is a chance to be positioned by being prepared to discuss issues seriously and demonstrating a willingness to participate in occasionally challenging talks.

 

In the workplace, bystander intervention is characterized as coworkers providing support while bullying is taking place. When there is bullying or harassing behavior either live or online, bystanders play a crucial role in interventions. In order for bystander interventions to be effective, the perpetrators of cyberbullying or online harassment must be identified in order for bystanders to take immediate action. There are difficulties distinguishing between online harassment and bullying and in-person bullying and harassment for two reasons: first, the absence of physical presence of groups can make harassment or bullying more subtle, implicit, or invisible; second, cyberbullying tends to be minimized or dismissed in comparison to its in-person counterpart. Research has revealed that bystander assistance declines as social distance rises, which was exacerbated by gender variations, which is particularly pertinent to a society where social seclusion is required during or after a pandemic.

 

The conduct of standing aside is quick and very engaged. Researchers have discovered that it can be measured on a scale and is frequently associated with self-efficacy, personal beliefs, and values, along with organizational and emotional support. Additionally, a person’s potential score on a bystander intervention scale is substantially predicted by their level of confidence in a just world for others. For instance, someone who feels that they benefit at the expense of others may rank differently on the bystander scale than someone who desires equity and believes that equity should be granted to all. Researchers are still debating the most useful measures, but they do take into account things like empathy, propensity to act, prior bystander training, and sentiments about the crime.

 

Click here to read our article about bullying at school

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