To mark National Bullying Prevention Month, here – in addition to some fresh research on bystanders further down – are some simple but powerful insights from someone who has been and continues to be subjected to severe online harassment and is now helping other victims recover from it….
“I’m a game developer, I’m a systems thinker so I can see patterns in behavior,” said Zoe Quinn, who, at the XOXOfest 2015 conference, shared some behavior patterns she’s picked up on as a target of sustained online abuse associated with last year’s hashtag storm called #gamergate (as The New Yorker described it, her main “crime” and a big reason for all the harassment was Depression Quest, a free game she created to help people deal with depression). Quinn is also leveraging all she’s learned to help run Crash Override Network, which she co-founded to support victims of large-scale online abuse. With thanks to Kevin Marks for his notes from her talk, here are some observations from Quinn that anyone interested in bullying prevention might find helpful or confirming:
- Upstanding is influential. “I talked to 300 former trolls and asked why they stopped. They said someone they looked up to said it wasn’t cool.”
- Dehumanization’s the problem. “Another thing that got the trolls backing off,” she said, “is humanizing the target, not making [the target] a caricature.” This reminds me of deeper psychological insight from MIT Prof. Sherry Turkle in the New York Times last week: that when there’s a disconnect with ourselves, we can disconnect with and marginalize others.
- Filling a void. Wise adults have been saying this to young bullying victims for years, but Quinn adds a fresh insight about the online kind: The cruel behavior is “not really about the target, it’s about belonging to the group that is attacking.”