Cyberbullying is no laughing matter, experts say. Studies repeatedly find that teenagers who are exposed to cyberbullying by peers are significantly more likely to experience depression, self-harm, and more. For years, researchers have warned that the lax approach taken by many countries regarding anti-bullying laws is a danger to children and teens everywhere. Even older people are not safe from the effects of cyberbullying; disabled men and women are particularly targeted by online bullies.
Is any platform safe from incessant and dangerous cyberbullying? It seems like the answer is no. Joel Poe is a singer and songwriter who has worked closely to promote an anti-bullying message to followers and peers around the world. He recently wrote about his love for Tumblr, admitting that the old platform invokes in him a deep sense of nostalgia. He isn’t alone, either. Old social media platforms like Tumblr continue to cling to life precisely because people keep coming back to them for those nostalgic feelings.
But Tumblr had its fair share of problems, and even Poe would admit this to be true. The site frequently came under fire after underage users experienced harassment, cyberbullying, or even doxxing. Tumblr’s image was always that of an inclusive site. When it came to content, the platform certainly cast a wide net; Poe explains that everyone on Tumblr came to the site to “express music, poetry, and art.” But below the surface, deeply toxic subcultures made the platform less-than welcoming for many young users.
Fast-forward to 2021, and parents and kids alike are witnessing the same thing on popular current social media platforms. TikTok is a prime example. “Duets” are often used to mock people who are caught doing or saying something embarrassing. Users sometimes flood comment sections with mean remarks, encouraging a troubling mob mentality among the user-base of the site, which often includes young teens who might be particularly susceptible to such bullying tactics.
Joel Poe’s activism against bullying is likely to continue for years to come. Part of the problem, some experts argue, is the lack of accountability on sites like Tumblr, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Although cyberbullying is prohibited on most of these sites, these rules are rarely enforced, and repeat offenders often simply switch accounts and continue to harass others following a ban.
Even in 2021, the ghost of cyberbullying continues to haunt children and teenagers all over the world. An increasingly digital world often means that teenagers hinge more of their self-esteem on the internet’s perception of them than ever before. Rather than a simple inconvenience or annoyance, cyberbullying can be outright deadly to a generation so fixated on their online image and reputation. While Joel Poe’s nostalgia for platforms like Tumblr is clear and common, he also understands that the problem of cyberbullying is shared by nearly all popular social media outlets. It is only through collective activism and advocacy that we can hope to finally defeat the spectre of bullying that has haunted young internet users for decades.