woman and online harassment

What to Do About Online Harassment

Online harassment can be a serious hazard to your personal safety and wellbeing. Anyone who puts themselves onto social media is putting themself at risk. Online hate groups can choose to target you for many reasons, including just because they want to. So, what should you do if online aggressors target you?

Lie Low

The first thing you should do if you’re the target of harassers is not to panic. Responding suddenly without thinking may make things worse.

If possible, do not respond to any messages you receive, and don’t publically mention the harassment you’re receiving.

While it might feel wrong to allow the harassers to silence you, it’s the best thing to do if you want them to go away. In most cases, harassers will leave you alone once they get bored of taunting you, and they grow bored much more quickly if you stop responding to their abuse.

You should encourage your followers to not engage with harassers on your behalf. Fans, friends, or family defending you may feel nice, but they’ll only extend the abuse. People leaping to your defense is more entertainment for the harassers.

Block Harassers

Online Harassment - Blocking
Blocking harassers is an important part of stopping them from being effective. | Source: Twitter

A key step you can take to protect yourself from harassers is to block them. Preventing abusers from contacting you should help to stem the tide of negative messages and comments you receive.

Bear in mind that this technique only works if the harassment is on a smaller scale. Any particularly motivated hate campaign will see people making false accounts to get around blocks because they know they’re getting to you when you block them.

Another version of this technique is to make your social media profiles private. This restricts new followers, but it should make it much harder for your abusers to harass you.

Reporting Harassers

Reporting harassers is another important tool in your arsenal. If successful, reporting the harassment you’re receiving can not only stop them from contacting you but completely removes their accounts from the social media site in question.

How effective the reporting is, depends on the social media site in question. Some sites will only look into an account once they’ve received numerous reports on it from different users.

Much like blocking, reporting accounts only works if you have a relatively small number of harassers who are targeting you. If they’re determined to make your life hell, then abusers will continue to make new accounts to get around being banned.

Collect Evidence

If your harassers are particularly vile, you might need to consider filing police reports. You need to document as much of the harassment as you possibly can to prove your case.

If it’s too painful or traumatic to go through the worst of the harassment, then you may want to get some friends to help you. Ensure to document as much of the harassment as possible to ensure the police take your case seriously.

You may want to request your information from the different social media sites. These complete reports of your data can take time to arrive, but they will provide you with a wealth of information for your report.

If All Else Fails, Disappear

Online Harassment - Disappear
Although an extreme solution, temporarily deactivating your account or logging off for a while can stem the tide of abuse. | Source: Facebook

If blocking, reporting, and even lying low hasn’t helped, there is one last reset. Disappear.

The easiest way to prevent harassment is to stop feeding it. Most harassers keep abusing their victims because they’re getting something out of it. They might be getting entertainment or a sense of moral superiority, but the important point is to stop giving them what they want.

Avoid going near any social media at all for a week or so. Use that time to recover, as online harassment can severely impact your mental health. Stepping away may feel like letting your abusers win, but they only win as long as they continue to abuse you. Letting them get bored and move on is the best way to disable harassers and abusers.

Is It Possible to Prevent Online Harassment?

Every victim of online harassment probably asks themselves if the situation could have been avoided. The grim truth of the matter is guaranteeing you’re safe from online harassment at all times is nearly impossible.

The only real way to prevent harassment is not to have an online presence at all. Without social media, it’s nearly impossible for you to become a target at all, let alone for your harassers to find you at all.

Minimizing risk can be done by avoiding the limelight. Do not try and gather many followers, and avoid discussions of sensitive topics, as these can be catalysts for abusers and harassers to target you.

In the end, being on the internet at all can make you a potential target for harassment. It has to be your decision whether the risks outway the benefits or not.

Worried about your online security? Our comprehensive security audit will give you peace of mind.

Featured image by aslysun from Shutterstock.com