Bullying and “The Audience Effect”

Let’s face it. We all act differently in public than we do in private. Every single one of us- you, me, everyone. For instance, you certainly wouldn’t take off your clothes and run around in your underwear in public.

Also, to a small degree, we tailor our actions and responses according to who is present at a given time. Why? Because the people around us are always evaluating us whether we know it or not.

For instance,

bullies will tailor their behavior according to their audience. If they think the people around them will get fun and entertainment out of seeing them bully, they will continue. Also, if the bullies expect bystanders and authority to turn a blind eye, they will continue bullying. And they will mercilessly bully that target without fail.

Even worse,

if the bullies catch on that everyone- even the bystanders and witnesses, share an intense hatred of the target, not only will they continue to bully that target, but they will mercilessly escalate the torment. Because, if everyone hates the target, that’s when there are absolutely no boundaries, no limits, to the level of abuse the bullies will inflict.

On the other hand, what if the bullies think there’s even a possibility that the audience will sympathize with the target?

If the bullies think there’s a chance the audience might call them out on their abuse and help the target, you can bet they’ll likely stop the abuse. And, in the future, the bullies will more than likely think twice before bullying the target again.

Again,

If the target has no friends and isn’t supported, the bullies will bully that target without fail. However, if the target has friends, allies, and supporters, the bullies will likely leave that person alone and go find an easier target who has fewer friends, allies, and supporters or none at all.

Therefore, you must find ways to make friends and garner support if ever you find yourself in the cross hairs of bullies. I cannot stress enough the importance of a support system- even if it’s an outside support system. Not only will you be safer and more secure, but your mental health won’t suffer nearly as much.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

4 Reasons Bystanders Refuse to Help Targets: The Cold, Hard Truth

bystander effect

You not only never forget the bullies, but you also remember the people who were there- the people who had the power to help you but did nothing. Many times, the bystanders who saw it never tried to intervene and stop the attacks, nor did they speak up on my behalf.

As much as I hate to say it, I was guilty of the same thing. When I watched a few others get bullied, I said and did nothing, thinking that my voice wouldn’t make a difference if I did speak up. Other times, I was just damn glad that, for a change, I wasn’t the one targeted and that it was someone else taking heat for a change.

For this, I am very remorseful and would like to apologize to all the other targets I left to fend for themselves. I’m truly sorry.

Bullying Poster Concept Illustration bystanders

Here are the reasons bystanders do nothing to help a target of bullying:

1. They’re afraid of arousing the bullies’ anger and becoming the next target. No one wants to be a target of bullying. I get that. Many bystanders fear getting involved, and for good reasons. However, many bystanders do have some power because they’re high on the social hierarchy.

And the higher you are in the pecking order, the more weight your actions and words carry. So, why not use your power to help the target? Because if you’re extremely popular, the chances are that other bystanders will follow your lead and join you, and the bully will leave the victim alone. There’s strength in numbers.

2. The bystanders see the bullies’ torment of the target as entertainment. Bullies always bully in front of an audience to humiliate the target. During altercations between bullies and targets, bystanders immediately gather around to watch it go down.

Most bystanders then stand around, laughing and pointing fingers. Many of them cheer and egg the bully on, stirring it up to get more entertainment, all of which only encourages the bully to continue and even escalate the abuse.

As long as it isn’t them getting dogged out or having their brains beat in, most bystanders think it’s funny to see it happen to someone else.

Silhouette of two hands with smartphones, shoot a video on a sinking person’s hand, asking for help. The concept of a selfish society, a social problem

It’s the reason that instead of helping the target, bystanders will automatically whip out their smartphones and record the confrontation. They can then watch it later, send the film to their friends, and have another big laugh over it.

But! It’s not the least bit funny to the target. It’s painful and humiliating. It can be devastating to a victim who has already been a target of bullying for an extended time and can drive them over the edge.

3. The bystanders themselves either dislike or hate the target. In many cases, bullies have run vicious smear campaigns and turned everyone against their victims. When an altercation finally breaks out, the bystanders refuse to help the target because they think she deserves the abuse. Many times, these bystanders secretly or openly take pleasure in seeing the target suffer.

They may stand around snickering or join the bullies in tormenting the target. Often, the bullies are only doing to the victim what many bystanders wish they had the stones to do themselves. So, they get complete satisfaction in seeing someone else attack the target. Bystanders often hate the victim so much that they would defend a total stranger before protecting the victim they hate so intensely.

4. They don’t want to get involved. Many bystanders figure that it’s none of their business and choose not to get involved. These bystanders are so indifferent that they won’t even stop and watch. They will only pass by and keep going. They don’t care. Period.

Understand that bullies always perform in front of an audience to show their superiority, strength, and power. Bystanders who do nothing to stop the attacks only silently support and encourage the bullies. These bystanders are just as guilty as the psycho bullies who perpetuate the attacks.

Often, bystanders either don’t understand or underestimate the power they have, especially in large numbers. When witnesses speak up for the target, the bullies will likely stop and leave the victim.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

The Contagion of Hate

It’s one of the reasons bullies are able to unite people who think like they do and win over bystanders and members of authority. It’s the reason why entire schools, workplaces, and communities will repetitiously mob a single targeted person. Understand that hate builds on hate.

Hate also helps to mask the insecurities of each member of the hating group. And all haters have insecurities, but not all insecure people are haters. Bullies know that, outside of a group, they are insignificant, ineffective, and powerless. If you have noticed, and I’m almost certain you have, haters always- always hate in packs.

Bullies are known for inciting others to not only partake in their hatred of the target, but also agree with and condone it. In their shared hatred of a target, each member gets validation and gains a sense of self-worth. The group also helps them to forget all about their insecurities and shortcomings.

Other benefits bullies get from their groups is a feeling of immense power, anonymity, and decreased accountability.

Realize that hate is like an adhesive that binds each member of the bully group together. When a group of bullies verbally attack their target, it enhances each member’s self-image and the overall status of the group.

And once verbal attacks lose their thrill, these bullies will take it up a notch and begin taunting the target by flipping him off, throwing rocks, destroying their property, and other such activities. And once that no longer produces the power high they seek, they will then begin shoving, tripping, pushing, etc. Shoving, pushing and tripping will then escalate to punching, kicking, and beating- then worse, and worse, and worse still.

Understand that hate spreads like a cancer. It’s the root of so many problems today. It’s true that hate hurts the haters more than the hated and that it eats the haters up inside, it can still cause a lot of collateral damage and make life dangerous for the hated if the hated fail to learn to recognize it.

If you’re an object of hate, the best you can do is to make yourself a priority. And how you do that is to take steps to protect yourself, take care of yourself, and focus on the people you love and who love you. Stay away for the wrong people and keep yourself around people who uplift you. Stay in a warm and loving environment if possible. You owe it to yourself.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

Why Bullies Need a Hated Enemy to Unite Against

In Robert Greene’s book entitled, “The Laws of Human Nature,” I once read that everyone needs a hated enemy and that there’s a positive side to having one. I’ve found that with packs of bullies, this is true.

Bullies in groups need an enemy, whether real or imagined, that they can band together and fight against- an “us-versus-them” object. Why? Because the presence of an enemy has always served to strengthen group cohesion and unite and tighten members. Groups reflexively focus on their hated target as a means of bringing it together as one and for further solidarity.

And if they can get any member of the authority and with a little power (teacher, principal, supervisor, manager or HR) to join in the hatred, all the better to ensure that the group align themselves to one another and oust the “enemy.”

Not even love, respect, or friendship unite people as much as the shared hatred of something or someone. Remember that there’s strength in numbers, and bullies must always have an entourage around them. You will never see a bully alone because the thought of being on their own scares them to death. And the stronger the solidarity, the less likely it is of the group disbanding. Hatred is the glue that binds the members together.

The victim provides the bullies the assurance that their group always stays together as one. Without the victim, the group is weak; things get boring real fast, and it won’t be long before they split up and go their separate ways.

Bullies also need victims for entertainment and as victory trophies to collect and display. They need victims as guinea pigs to test their (perceived) strength and power and then show proof thereof to bystanders and witnesses.

Therefore, the target serves many purposes. And once they’ve served their purpose, they’re neatly and quietly disposed of, and a new victim is selected.

Always remember this. The more we know about bullies’ inner workings, the better we can defend ourselves against them.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

How Social Contagion Triggers Bullying

A crowd of people surrounded the red man. The accusation of a crime, mob law over a person, lynch court. The leader in the center of the crowd, the leader, an example for diving. Angry crowd

First, let’s define the term “Social Contagion.” It is the spread of thoughts, ideas, emotions, and behaviors from person to person and larger groups affected by shared information, mimicry, and conformity.

A certain emotion or mood can spread quickly through a large crowd, leading them to extreme mindsets. This explains the “pack mentality” where people in large groups act in ways they may later regret.

It is the same with bullying. A target is selected by a few bullies out of the whole class, workplace, or community. Before you know it, the entire student body, workplace, or neighborhood is acting in evil and brutal ways toward the selected target- doing sadistic things that, under normal circumstances, they would never do.

Intense hate spreads throughout the group like cancer. Bystanders, witnesses, even teachers, school officials, supervisors, and managers will partake in the abuse of the singled-out and defenseless target.

They do this for several reasons:

1. To keep from being the next target
2. To fit into the group
3. To feel better about themselves and superior to someone (anyone).
4. They believe any lies/rumors about the target
5. To tighten bonds among themselves- using the target as the common enemy to unite against

To beat bullies at their own game, we must first know what makes them tick and why they do what they do. Once we learn the bully mindset, we will be able to better protect ourselves against them.

Peeling the masks of the bullies one layer at a time!

Why Bullies Bully in Large Groups

As the old proverb goes, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” This has been true since the dawn of time. There’s strength in numbers. And bullies are notorious for running in packs and using their numbers to intimidate targets.

However, there’s a reason that goes much deeper than strength or power.

Social science has proved that comradeship is born when two or more people can find something (or someone)they dislike- a common enemy they can all share a passionate dislike for. And if members of the group do not feel they can get solidarity any other way, they will find and/or create an enemy against who they can all unite.

Simply put, they single out and harass a certain person for group cohesion purposes- to facilitate camaraderie among the other bullies in the group.

Put another way, they use their victim as a vehicle for interaction, ingratiation, and bonding. Uniting against an enemy ensures group solidarity. Each member takes turns bullying the victim because they know it’s expected of them by the rest of the pack. Therefore they commit the harassment to ‘fit in’ and get rewards of group unity at the victim’s expense.

Today, we call this “pack mentality” or “herd mentality.” And sadly, most people will do anything, right or wrong, to follow the rest of the herd.

Another Reason I Won’t Go to Any Reunions

“Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” – Nietzche

It’s because of a thing called “group behavior.”

It’s a fact that school bullies rarely get over the passionate hatred of their targets once they graduate and meet them again in the real world later. My old bullies are no exception. They may not admit it to anyone other than each other, but it’s still there- simmering under the surface. Not that I’m concerned about how they feel because I could care less. As long as they stay away from me, they can feel, think, and say whatever and however, they want. It’s of no concern to me.

What would concern me is that going to the next reunion would put me in physical danger. And let’s face it. People act much differently in large groups than they do on their own. In groups, humans will do things they usually wouldn’t do, and they’ll do it for the sole purpose of conforming.

Understand that a high school reunion will have at least fifty to a hundred people in attendance. And the bigger the group, the more compelled the people in it will be to conform.

For example: If twenty out of a hundred classmates attending this reunion decide to jump me, or even kill me, you can bet that for obvious reasons, none of those who stand by and watch would do a thing to help me. They probably wouldn’t so much as run and call for help.

Out of their loyalty for each other and hatred for me, the attendees would, more than likely, let me die. I wouldn’t put it past them. No way would they risk conflict and the possibility of being ostracized by the rest of the class. To be another, “usurper” like me. No way they would.

They’re  didn’t years ago, and they wouldn’t do it today. It doesn’t matter how much older we are. They would value their status within the class more than they would the life of a person they never deemed a human being.

And people like them figure that if no one stops them, it can’t be wrong. Bystanders have a ton of influence. So, when they turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, they’ll likely become participants in it at some point. My classmates like each other and have a lot in common. And the one thing they share is their collective resentment and hate of certain people they decided weren’t worthy of human dignity. Therefore, this would only cement their collusion.

So, why would I even consider going? Going to this reunion would be suicide, and I value myself and my life way too much to put myself in that kind of danger.

The more people present when an emergency strikes, the more likely they’ll only ignore it. Any altruism they have will, more than likely, fly out the window when a person is a part of a large group. Even if cellphones have made it easier to call for help, we’ve seen video after video of vicious beatings and other crimes against fellow humans, where bystanders only stood around, laughed, and filmed the attack rather than use their phones to call for help.

Given the feelings of anger and resentment my classmates still have thirty years later, I wouldn’t put it past them to pull out their phones and begin filming in the event some of them attacked me. It’s precisely the mentality the majority of them still have, and it’s sad.

And most adults aren’t mature adults in this day and age. Adults today aren’t the adults of the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s. Many of today’s adults, 55 and younger, have no morals nor integrity. The world today is much more evil, and many people have let hatred and immaturity overtake them because, in the current climate, it’s easier to survive in today’s world if you go along.

It’s hard to go high when everyone else goes low. Few people want to be the square peg in a group of round ones because it’s much too risky.

And many of my classmates may not think they’d stand back and watch another human being getting pulverized. After all, we all want to believe we’d do the right thing. But human nature is a fickle thing, and the compulsion to conform to a group is more potent than we realize.

Be good enough to forgive someone, but don't be stupid enough to trust them again. forgiveness

This kind of stuff has happened too many times down through history- others looked the other way while the most brutal of atrocities were being committed.

This is not to say for absolute certain that they would resort to physically harming or killing another person because they may not. But there’s no way I can know for sure. And given all this, especially their past behavior, I’m not willing to take that chance. So, the best thing to do is to ensure my safety by avoiding them altogether.

So, if you were a target of bullying in school and you know for a fact that your classmates never resolved their hatred of you, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go to any reunions, much less bring your spouse and kids to one. Sometimes distance is the safest bet.

Bullying and Social Contagion

Bully Grabbing Angry Nerd

First, let’s define the term, “Social Contagion”. It is the spread of thoughts, ideas, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups as affected by shared information, mimicry and conformity.

A certain emotion or mood can spread quickly through a large crowd, leading them to extreme mindsets. This explains “pack mentality” where people in large groups act in ways they may later regret.

It is the same with bullying. A target is selected by a few bullies out of the whole class, workplace or community and before you know it, the entire student body, workplace or neighborhood is acting in evil and brutal ways toward the selected target- doing sadistic things that, under normal circumstances, they would never do.

Intense hate spreads throughout the group like a cancer. Bystanders, witnesses, even teachers, school officials, supervisors, and managers will partake in the abuse of the singled-out and defenseless target.

dreamstime_xs_125034702

They do this for several reasons:

1. To keep from being the next target
2. To fit into the group
3. To feel better about themselves and superior to someone (anyone).
4. They believe any lies/rumors about the target
5. To tighten bonds among themselves- using the target as the common enemy to unite against

In order to beat bullies at their own game, we must first know what makes them tick and why they do what they do. Once we learn the bully mindset, we will be able to better protect ourselves against them.

Peeling the masks of the bullies one layer at a time!

Why Bullies Often Bully in Large Groups

dreamstime_s_50712628

As the old proverb goes, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”. This has been true since the dawn of time. There’s strength in numbers. And bullies are notorious for running in packs and using their numbers to intimidate targets.

However, there’s a reason that goes much deeper than strength or power.

Social science has proved that comradeship is born when two or more people can find something (or someone)they dislike- a common enemy they can all share a passionate dislike for. And if members of the group do not feel they can get solidarity any other way, they will find and/or create an enemy who they can all unite against.

dreamstime_s_98463238

Simply put, they single out and harass a certain person for purposes of group cohesion- to facilitate camaraderie among the other bullies in the group.

Put another way, they use their victim as a vehicle for interaction, ingratiation, and bonding. Uniting against an enemy ensures group solidarity. Each member takes turns bullying the victim because they know it’s what’s expected of them by the rest of the pack. Therefore they commit the harassment to ‘fit in’ and get rewards of group unity at the victim’s expense.

Today, we call this “pack mentality” or “herd mentality”. And sadly, most people will do anything, right or wrong, to follow the rest of the herd.

The Role of Social Proof in Bullying

dreamstime_s_32438290

We may not realize it, but we sell ourselves to the public every day. From making new friends to finding a date, we sell ourselves- putting our best foot forward to impress others and show them our best sides, and we do this unconsciously, without even thinking about it. We give the illusion that we’re a hot item because we instinctively know that it’s what everyone loves and is attracted to, and we’re afraid of not being accepted.

“Social proof (also known as informational social influence) is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Put more plainly; we tend to do what we think everyone else is doing, to follow the pack, to join the bandwagon, to get in on the next big thing, whether it be the new, hot fashion trend, a breakout musical group, anything that’s extremely popular with others!

dreamstime_xs_170122562

For example, a few decades ago, Cabbage Patch Kids were a hot item! Everybody had a cabbage patch kid- I had one myself. And anytime there’s a hot item that’s “all the rage,” everyone clamors to have it!

It’s the same in the social arena. Everyone wants to hang with the “cool” crowd. Although this crowd may or may not be what you’d consider cool and might be the opposite of, others perceive them to be and want to hang with them, so you want to hang with them. Therefore, you want to do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, it’s also the same with bullying.

With bullying in school or the workplace, if everyone else is bullying you, you can be sure that total strangers who have never met you and even your friends will (if they haven’t already) also try to bully you. Why? Because “everyone else is doing it” and they want to join the in-crowd!

Guy and girls

Portrait of happy teenage guy surrounded by pretty girls

But know that when this happens, it has nothing to do with you and in no way means that you somehow deserve it or did anything wrong. What it means is that most people are followers and drones- sheep! They’re slaves to the prospect of fitting in with the majority.
In essence, bullying you has become a ritual with them. The in-thing to do at your school or your place of employment.

The more you know about the psychology of bullies, the better you prepare and the better you’ll feel. Sometimes, just knowing the truth is enough to make you feel better.