Bullying Types: Verbal & Social - Bullying Series, post #3

(This blog post is part of a special series addressing the topic of bullying)

Two weeks ago we talked about physical bullying and how it can be individual or instigated by a group. This week we are exploring verbal and social bullying – what it means and how it can affect us and everyone around us.

First let’s begin with verbal bullying.

Verbal bullying is speaking or writing in a way that causes hurt, fear, or embarrassment. This can include teasing, taunting, mocking, insulting, threatening, ridicule, and name-calling. Comments may be racial in nature, sexual, or simply cruel. Verbal bullying intends to demean or devalue others, causing emotional distress and sometime triggering depression.

Verbal bullying is very common, in part because it is so easy to do. It usually becomes more prevalent as students enter middle school. Contrary to the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” words can hurt as much or more than physical injury. The emotional trauma or embarrassment caused by verbal bullying, if not resolved properly, can prompt the victim to take drastic action – hurting themselves or others.

It is speculated that the Columbine killers were verbally bullied before murdering classmates and teachers in 1991, and research indicates that bullying and harassment (which includes verbal bullying) has been linked to 75% of school shooting incidents (Engage:  an active response to bullying, p. 15). Additional research discovered that one of the earliest verbal taunts, “Nah-nah-nah-nah-boo-boo,” exists across many different cultures throughout the world, demonstrating a universal tendency to pick on others.

Verbal bullying is often part of social bullying, which follows.

Social bullying is using social power or influence to intimidate, manipulate, or exclude. This can include leaving someone out, pressuring others not to be friends, spreading rumors or gossip, making false accusations, embarrassing someone in public, encouraging others to bully, ganging up on someone, or destroying someone’s reputation.

Social bullying is often used to ostracize someone. The word “ostracize” does a good job describing one aspect of social bullying. According to dictionary.com, ostracize means “to exclude by general consent from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc.” Each one of us can probably recall painful times when we have been excluded.

There is a huge amount of peer pressure involved in social bullying. Incidents of social bullying can create an atmosphere of generalized hostility, where the group adopts a hostile attitude toward the victim. Even those who are not directly involved can feel a great deal of discomfort because they do not know what to do. Should they join in the abuse, or reach out to the victim and risk being socially excluded themselves?

The power of social bullying lies with the group, as the bully must recruit the participation and support of others. In an attempt to increase their personal power and control of the group, social bullies may pick out someone vulnerable to exclude or “ruin” – but they can’t accomplish this alone. In reality, social bullies would be nothing without their groups standing with them.

Social bullying involves some element of physical, verbal, or cyber bullying. An aggressor might physically humiliate someone in front of others, publicly ridicule an individual, or spread rumors through the internet. Since feelings of self-worth are often influenced by how victims think they are perceived by others, social bullying can make them feel unwanted, disliked, and alone.

Social bullying has taken a leap into cyber space with the rise of cyber bullying, which we will explore in the next post of this bullying series.

blog comments powered by Disqus