As with any technological development, everyone who's a jerk, who's a vindictive ex, or who's a homophobic bully simply has another tool at their disposal to harass others. It shouldn't be surprising that so many LGBT teens are saying that the bullying they face in the real world is just getting transferred to social media:
In the online survey of 444 junior high, high school and college students between the ages of 11 and 22 -- including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects -- 54 percent of the LGBT and allied youth reported being victims of cyberbullying in the 30 days prior to the survey.
Cyberbullying includes attacks such as electronic distribution of humiliating photos, dissemination of false or private information, or targeting victims in cruel online polls.
And it has the same psychological effect:
Among the non-heterosexual respondents, 45 percent reported feeling depressed as a result of being cyberbullied, 38 percent felt embarrassed, and 28 percent felt anxious about attending school. More than a quarter (26 percent) had suicidal thoughts.
The results underscore the helplessness felt by victims of cyberbullying. Forty percent of the non-heterosexual respondents indicated that their parents wouldn't believe them if they were being bullied online, while 55 percent reported that their parents couldn't do anything to stop it. Fifty-seven percent also indicated that they didn't think a school official could do anything to stop it.
The internet obviously won't save the world. Here are numbers from a recent survey on LGBT bullying at school:
No group was immune to bullying. Nearly 44 percent of gay male participants said they had been bullied in the previous year, compared with 26 percent of heterosexuals who reported the same. For girls, 40 percent of lesbians indicated they had been bullied in the past year, while just over 15 percent of heterosexuals reported such. About 35 percent of bisexual and mostly homosexual guys had been bullied and about 25 percent of their female counterparts.
Web 2.0 made it easier for LGBT youth in isolated areas to get support, but with tools like Gist and Google Buzz it's going to make it easier for bullies to figure out who's queer and who to target.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.