One evening last year, I logged on to my social media accounts, as most of us do right after we crawl into bed. I scrolled through pictures of friends, read posts from their day, and even made my photo contribution to the social media world. But then, as I was scrolling through some notifications….there it was. Another Dray Carson, well technically ‘Andraya Carson’.
Could it be? Could there be two of us? Not unless there was an identical twin my parents never told me about. Intrigued, I clicked, and clicked, and clicked, and read, and read and read. Links leading to blogs, blogs leading to other people’s blogs.
ALL LIES!! Dozens of blogs and fake social media accounts later, it was crystal clear to me –
“I was now being cyberbullied.”
I thought this only happened to kids in school? I’m a professional. I’m a mom. I do great things in the community. Who was behind this mess? It’s interesting how, in a moment, I felt like there was no where I could hide from this invisible bully.
Back-in-the-day, bullies on the playground had to show their face. They had to have some guts behind their actions, but not here in cyberspace. Even the wimpy and weak can strike…and it’s a shame that a lot of the social media and blog platforms do really little to stop this from happening. Thank you ‘freedom of speech’, I’m pretty sure [this] is not what that ‘freedom’ meant.
So, what are my options? Brand yourself, or be branded.
Fight back and attack this cyberbully that is delusional? Not my style. I have never posted something negative about a person or company on the internet, and I refuse to have my integrity compromised by doing so now…..even though it would be very well warranted.
Instead, I have set up to define myself.
Yes, brand me. This was a weird concept at first for me to wrap my head around. I mean, who am I? I’m not a famous entertainer, an athlete, or world renowned business woman (well, not yetJ). I’m Andraya (Dray) Carson-Hruby…
Exactly. I am Dray Carson, and, really, the cyber world has no clue what that means. Now-a-days it’s common to just ‘google it’, with the ‘it’ being people, places, things, ideas, whatever! There is so much out there… about everything…and, mark my word, if you don’t brand yourself, you are opening the door for other people to brand you…and you may not always like what they have to say (even if it is poorly written and on bogus topics no one would believe anyway).
I decided to seize the day and use this cyberbullying situation to my advantage. Start defining who I am, and sharing it. Sharing me, my way. Which means, I had to start thinking about not just who I am, but how I was going to communicate it to the world.
That task was super simple for me to do for a company, or even for someone else, but for me? Yikes! That took work (and well, frankly is still a work in progress). All sorts of feelings have come up; confusion, vulnerability, excitement, procrastination, and eagerness…to name a few.
It’s a challenge, an ongoing, massive challenge. But one that I welcome.
Because with it comes a sense of clarity and confidence. When you can define who you are from an authentic place, and know that sometimes you may ‘mess things up’ as you stumble forward, it’s actually quite refreshing and invigorating.
Because if there are any failures or successes, it is me who is determining them AND NOT MY CYBERBULLY. And since failure is not an option as an end result, this roller coaster known as my journey is on its way up.
Hello, my name is Dray Carson-Hruby. I’m a business woman. I’m a philanthropist. I’m a mom. It’s nice to meet you.
Workplace Bullying Goes Cyber
As a kid I was teased, made fun of, and well, bullied. Not fun. I thought that was something that only happened in your formative years.
However, in more recent times I had been introduced to the concept of cyber-bullying, firsthand.
My impression was that cyberbullying occurred amongst teenagers due to their constant day-to-day activities online. With the evolution of technology over the years, and the introduction of social media, my thought was that the battles on the playground had transitioned into a virtual place.
Not so. Bullying knows no age limits.
And while nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, and one in four had it happen multiple times, I was shocked to find out firsthand that cyberbullying is also something adults could be faced with, both in their personal and professional lives.
From Being Cyberbullied to Raising Awareness
I had an experience where a co-worker was bullying me in the office, and making my life a complete hell.
I thought that leaving that company would leave the bully behind. I was wrong. And while my superiors did little to stop this harassment while I was working, there was even less they could do when he turned invisible and started harassing me virtually after I left the company.
It was not a fun experience, and one that I am still rebuilding from.
Now I’m a Business Advisor in the Human Resources industry, I have witnessed similar situations like this happen to people all too frequently.
Repeatedly, I have conversations with clients surrounding their ‘Internet harassment policy’, which is also referred to as “cyberbullying”. In essence, this is the term used to describe the use of the Internet to harass, threaten, or maliciously embarrass.
It’s crazy to think as grown adults, we have monitor and spell out for people that it is not cool to harass someone (at all), let alone through social media or texting.
So, What is Considered Cyberbullying?
Here are some examples of behaviors that would be considered cyberbullying:
- Sending unsolicited and/or threatening e-mail.
- Encouraging others to send the victim unsolicited and/or threatening e-mail or to overwhelm the victim with e-mail messages.
- Sending viruses by e-mail (electronic sabotage).
- Spreading rumours.
- Making defamatory comments about the victim in public discussion areas.
- Sending negative messages directly to the victim.
- Impersonating the victim online by sending an inflammatory, controversial or enticing message which causes others to respond negatively to the victim.
- Harassing the victim during a live chat.
- Leaving abusive messages on Web site guest books.
- Sending the victim pornography or other graphic material that is knowingly offensive.
- Creating a Web page or writing an entry on a blog that depicts the victim in negative ways.
As this is a relatively new topic in the workplace, it is common to see employers include cyberbullying into their general workplace bullying policy. And while this is a good step in the right direction, this topic does justify a standalone policy.
A recent study by VitalSmarts, a leadership consultancy founded by David Maxwell, author of the book Crucial Conversations, polled nearly 3,000 people on the topic of workplace bullying.
A shocking 96% of respondents indicated they’d been bullied in the workplace. You may also be surprised to know that 62% of bullying came in the form of sabotaging work and/or reputation; 52% in ‘browbeating, threats and intimidation’, and 4% in actual physical assault.
The Changing Landscape of the Work Environment
The workplace now has a crucial impact in determining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to say or do to another staff member.
Just as it is difficult for kids to report to authorities when they are being bullied, the same situation may arise in the workplace. In other words, culture is everything. So too, is creating a strong policy. It is vital that companies create a strong environment that is intolerant of this type of behavior.
And while you cannot completely control what others will say about you online, you can grant people you do not know limited access to your information.
Now, if you happen to be in the same situation as I was with an invisible cyberbully, don’t keep quiet about it, as silence is not the answer. Let your authorities know, and reach out to the platforms that the harassment is taking place at.
More and more social media platforms are realizing that there is a difference between ‘freedom of speech’ and harassment, and are adopting a zero tolerance to cyberbullying. Reporting the abuse could result in them shutting down those accounts.
For those in charge of human resources or direct hiring, you can reach out to a Human Resources company to find out examples of policies and procedures that you can implement in order to create an environment where your staff feels safe and valued.