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Sunday, March 30, 2014

CyberBullying Ends with Educating the Cyber Bullies

After my post concerning Erotica 1 and the earthquake that followed, I was asked by Xolve via twitter if I'd do a follow up post with some suggestions on what we as a community can do about the issue.

So here's the problem with this issue. It's not just an EVE Online issue. It's not just a gaming issue. It's a human issue that's been bolstered by the invention of the Internet and the anonymity it provides. It's an issue that crosses all boundaries of community, nation, race, gender and age group. It's far larger than one game no matter how dark that game is. The fact is, there is no easy do-this-that-and-the-other-thing solution that will resolve it. Giving out such a list of rules is a bit pretentious and would show a lack of understanding on what motivates such behavior. So instead, I want to define the bully and then I'll talk about the difference with the cyber bully and what might "correct" the behavior.

First of all, let's look at the real reasons people cyber bully, and yes @gamerchick42, one of the reasons is they seek attention, but it isn't the only reason by far.

  • Their friends are doing it

  • They want to look cool and fit in

  • They are rebelling against their parents

  • They want to exercise adult behavior

  • They are bullies

  • They are seeking attention

As you can see, this list was geared towards teenagers cyber bullying teenagers. It comes from's What is CyberBullying page. But it applies to every cyber bully of any age. You can replace the word parent with society and it makes just as much sense. In fact, drop everything from that line after rebelling and the point is just as valid. It doesn't matter what they rebel against. It is enough to know they are rebelling against something. And aren't we all wanting to prove how adult we are even if we're a half century old already?

So what else does that page have to say about CyberBullying? It lists where it can happen and that list absolutely includes online games. It covers the spectrum that CyberBullying behavior covers. When you look down that list you can see that heated exchanges, defaming, belittling and mocking make the list. Isn't that precisely what Erotica 1 did? Don't bother to answer that, it's a rhetorical question. And it's not like we haven't all seen harassment and stalking happen in EVE Online. If you haven't feel lucky. And most times such behavior is completely within keeping with the bounds of the game. It's when it becomes repetitive, goes beyond the game or becomes personal that it becomes CyberBullying. It's a bit of a sliding scale actually, but most people can recognize it when they see it. That said, what constitutes CyberBullying? has a nice graphic based on the Internet Safety 101 curriculum by Enough is Enough.

[caption id="false" align="alignright" width="427"]Seven Types of Bullying Online Seven Types of Bullying Online[/caption]

Of these seven types of online bullying, I believe Erotica 1's behavior falls squarely into Outing and Trickery. That makes it cyber bulling - period. Don't bother arguing it with me. These aren't my definitions. They are official definitions defined by organizations whose goal it is to protect our children from such unacceptable behavior and it's backed by professional insight and expertise. And you know what they say about wearing shoes. If it fits, wear it.

But our specific interest is online gaming. And we are adults, not children. The organizations from which I gleaned this information exist to educate computer illiterate parents on what might happen to their children in a technology age. But that doesn't make it any less relevant to adults. Just like children bully other children, adults bully other adults. It happens in the work place. It happens at the gym. And more and more it happens online.

Most people who bully are only stopped by the fear they may be caught and punished. The Internet relieves them of that fear. They feel they are untouchable because of the anonymity provided by the Internet, and the distance they have from those they bully. It's a fairly safe bet that no one will drive 1000 miles to beat up a cyber bully. It's far easier to cut off contact and lick one's wounds.

In the realm of online gaming, that generally means a rage quit. BTW @gamerchick42, that's the attention most bullies really want, not being called out for their bad behavior. Online gaming bullies use rage quits as a mark of ultimate dominance over another person. They'll brag about it. Then and only then does the desire for attention come into play - because they've instigated it at a place and time of their choosing. If you respond in any way to what they've crowed about, you've played right into their hands. Whether you praise or ridicule them, they'll take pride in ownership. There is no line in the mind between fame and infamy.

And that's the key to thwarting them. In order to stop a bully, you have to eliminate those things they seek. The hardest part about stopping a bully is identifying what they want from their actions. Fortunately that's already been done for us. Now we only have to decide to start taking those things away. When they are eliminated, the bully has no reward for bullying. That's doesn't mean they'll stop. Bullying is a deep seated psychological issue that most people don't realize needs treatment to overcome completely.

Have you ever wondered what makes a bully a bully? When I was a kid, being bullied, I often wondered why my tormentors did what they did. Well, there have been lots of studies on that. Here's one summary of them: 10 Telling Psychological Studies On the Nature of Bullying. I'll summarize for you.

  1. Children who bully also have problems with other relationships.

  2. Bullying behaviors are learned and practiced at home.

  3. Social desires drive both bullying and other children’s reactions to it.

  4. Some bullying stems from a desire to maintain control.

  5. Poor problem-solving skills increase children’s risk of becoming both a bully and a victim.

  6. Students and parents may define bullying differently.

  7. Even popular, well-liked students get bullied.

  8. Cyberbullying operates differently than traditional bullying.

  9. Children begin bullying and being bullied as soon as they are old enough to engage in social interactions.

  10. Most anti-bullying programs aren’t effective.

Now, that's a fairly lengthy outline of what a bully is, what a bully wants and how they come to be bullies. But your traditional bully and your cyber bully have one distinct difference. Have a close look at item #8 above. It comes from this study by the University of British Columbia. It shows that cyber bullying and traditional bullying are not the same. The difference is,

"University of British Columbia researchers compared the two and found that the dynamics of online bullying are unique, with students not seeing their actions online in the same light as their actions in real life."

And it is that difference that gives us the opportunity to stop cyber bullies in my opinion.

This is where I get to tell you a story. It started on Facebook many years ago, after I first signed up. As you may know from reading this blog, I don't like Facebook all that much. The reason I have an account at all is because my mother shamed me into it frankly. The conversation was something like (and I paraphrase,) "Well, since you never come to visit or call, you could at least join Facebook so I can see what you're up to." The shame is I live 40 minutes from my mother's house. But that's a complete tangent from the topic at hand (and  a completely different problem.)

What happened on Facebook all those years ago was I accepted friend requests from everyone at first. I didn't really think about it. And people change. So after awhile, I noticed one of my old acquaintances referred to everyone who wasn't a WASP (white Anglo Saxon protestant) by whatever epitaph and slur he preferred for that particular race and/or gender and/or sexual orientation. When I was his friend, he would never have acted the way he did on Facebook. And though I am a WASP so none of his comments were aimed at me personally, a few were aimed at other friends who asked him to stop. He didn't. I felt compelled to join them. Every time he made such a "pronouncement" on Facebook, I would tell him he was being a bigot with a link to the definition of bigot. He protested of course, and said he was not a bigot. I informed him he was acting like one though. I only did it when he made a truly bigoted comment. Otherwise I let him have his say. I simply let him know I found his bigoted statements hurtful and unacceptable behavior. Soon others were doing the same. We weren't mean about it, we were simply firm. We would not accept him acting this way. And as his local "friends" started to "have other plans," he got the message and stopped. He figured out that his online actions DID have the same repercussions as in person interactions.

That's my point. We have to tell the cyber bullies what they are doing is wrong. We have "encourage" them to see their actions in the same light as their real life actions. To do that there must be real consequences for what they do, like banning them from a game for a time so they understand what they do online is not separate from how they act in person. If they continue to be cyber bullies, they should be banned permanently. They cannot be allowed to see what they do online as different than what they'd do in person.

And for our part, we can't run away from cyber bullying. We have to confront it so cyber bullies know it is just as wrong as doing it in person. We have to make it just as unacceptable. Each one of us have to do this even when it is not done to us specifically. Whenever we encounter CyberBullying, we have to call it unacceptable behavior while pointing at the person doing it. So must the companies that provide the medium from which such attacks are launched. I am glad CCP understands this. On Friday they released their official response to the Erotica 1 issue. It makes it very clear such behavior is unacceptable and those who do such things will be dealt with no differently than other rule breakers. It connects cyber actions to real life consequences. It sends a clear message. That's exactly what needs done - by everyone.


  1. Kudos for this interesting and information-rich post – well done! I learned some things I did not know, and I agree 100% with your conclusions. If nothing else, the “bonus room” affair has raised awareness of this issue in the EVE Online community. That is a good thing.

  2. I think the operative word is “expressing” one’s objection. What i’ve learned over the years from listening to speakers on the topic of harassment is that being silent is the worst thing you can do because it reinforces the peer pressure to applaud the bad behavior. It’s not the ‘attention’ they want as much as the ‘rewards’ of being a part of a self-reinforcing peer culture and the complicit silence of leadership figures.

  3. So when even the victim admits there was no real life damage its still bullying interesting. Relating in game interactions between adults to a very serious thing that happens in high schools. Not as bad as torture or domestic violence but you are still missing the real world part if I cyberbully somone in school this is all backed up by real world threats of violence. None of that happened here on erotica's side ne way. Ne way it dont matter now we will be well on the way to a watered down eve full of idiots.

  4. On the same page you pulled your bullying criteria from is this definition:

    What is cyberbullying?
    Cyberbullying is willful and repeated harm (i.e., harassing, humiliating, or threatening text or images) inflicted through the Internet, interactive technologies, or mobile phones.

    According to the sources you quote, you require wilful harm, and that the harm was repeated. The first is debatable (either that Sohkar was harmed, or that any harm was wilful), the second is clearly not the case with Sohkar (he was not pursued afterwards for repeat performances). Furthermore, I contend the majority of Eve players - probably including yourself - have at some time engaged in one or more of those behaviours in the context of the intentionally dystopian game or the well-known and celebrated (including by CCP) metagame:

    Gossip, Exclusion, Impersonation, Harassment, Cyberstalking, Flaming, Outing and Trickery, Cyberthreats

    Sohkar himself engaged in Cyberthreats during the bonus room. Ripard Teg engaged in Harassment and Cyberstalking of Erotica 1. Where is your impassioned defence of the victim of these bullies? Finally, the sources you quoted refer exclusively to children. You are applying these criteria to a grown professional married man, who as an Air Traffic Controller can be assumed of sound mind, and with no leverage other than that he willingly supplied himself.

    While I'm sure you will find a way to argue around these points, I hope at least you can see why your arguments are not regarded as compelling by many due to cherrypicking, inconsistency and logical fallacy.

  5. There. Now we have two comments against CyberBullying and two for CyberBullying. That's fair to the commentators. The pro-bullies even got to write more words down than the anti-bullies. I guess it takes more to convince themselves of the rightness of their indignation. Meh. So at this juncture, comments are closed on this post.

    Why? Because I say so. Because it's my blog. Because bullies suck - period. And during this discourse, we've all seen the same old tricks pulled out by the pro-bullies. Try and make the bully the victim and the victim the bully. Try and defend abhorrent behavior by claiming everyone does it. Rule-smith the issue into the ground by pointing at every seemingly incongruous statement and then calling the entire issue a fabricated issue because it isn't black and white.

    Well, at least they have that last part correct. This isn't black and white. Bad behavior is a sliding scale and both sides can succumb to it. We are all human and we share the same human weaknesses. Almost all people at some point in their lives do something horrible to another person. I have. I've been a bully myself in the past for reasons now that seem so ridiculously petty. But, there is a big difference between me, who has been a bully once or twice and found it distasteful, and those who would argue there is nothing wrong with such behavior and wish to do it more. You ready to know what it is? Here it comes.

    I wanted to be a better person, so I became one. I stopped treating others with disrespect, understood they were a person with their own worries and concerns, and I became the person my mother always wanted me to be, for lack of a better way of putting it. The other's who've argued the bully case here... not so much. But I do hope that one say they understand how wrong they are and learn to empathize with their fellow man. No one has the right to treat another as Erotica 1 did, ESPECIALLY in a game - not despite it. All you who think it was okay what he did need to go take a long look in the mirror. You'll get no more pulpit here.


Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.

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