Dear Trish: You often say that we should be Upstanders to hate. But how can I actually do that, particularly when the “cyberbullies” are your friend? Intervening can be so hard to do, and I’m worried I’ll be judged for saying something.
First, thank you so much for your incredibly important, spot-on question. I say “spot-on” because you’re 100% right: In theory, being an upstander sounds simple, but in practice, it can feel confusing and out-of-reach for lots of folks. In this week’s TikTok, I talk about the fact that that’s because of social pressure. Like you mentioned, maybe the “cyberbullies” are actually your friends! Maybe you’re worried about how you’ll look, what those friends will think of you. And even if you’re not worried about all of that, maybe you’re unsure that what you’ll say will actually have any impact (for all of you know, your friends will just brush it off!).
Let me start by validating all of that — and no, you’re not a bad person for worrying about what other people will think of you. We all do that, and it’s perfectly normal. With that said, we shouldn’t let that get in the way of doing the right thing, especially when, as I mention in this week’s video, “the right thing” doesn’t need to be a heroic gesture.
Instead, invest in some simple nudges. The first one: reminding your friends of the potential consequences of their actions. If there’s anything I’ve learned in over 8 years of this work, it’s that many folks doing mean or hurtful things online are simply not thinking. Use that information to your advantage. The next time your friends plot not to tag someone in a photo, casually bring up the many ways things may go wrong. “Did you hear that 123 people at ABC school got suspended for a group chat they created about XYZ?” It’s one sentence, super simple, and not very confrontational — but it’s a good way to get your friends to pause, and to get your point across.
You can also use your position as a member of the “in” group to get your friends to understand the impact of their actions. This approach is effective in not 1, but 2 ways: it can stop cyberharassment, and it helps teach your friends why what they’re doing is wrong. So, how does it work? Well, let’s return to your friends plotting not to tag Jane Doe in an Insta photo. You can say something like, “XYZ once did that to me. It really sucked; I felt so terrible.” Again, it’s not a very confrontational statement—it doesn’t even refer to Jane Doe (or your friends)! Instead, you use your power as a member of the friend group to show your now-indignant, horrified-for-you friends why they might consider rethinking what they’re doing.
Finally, it’s entirely possible that your friends are scheming to do something unacceptable, or the situation is urgent/requires immediate attention. In that case, your best bet as an Upstander might be to go to a parent or a teacher. But Trisha, you’re thinking, that makes me so uncomfortable! I know…that’s why Tip #3 is to find a friend to stand up with you (it’s always easier not doing it alone). The odds are, there’s at least one — if not more — folks in your friend group that are also uncomfortable with what your friends are up to. (They’re just choosing to not say anything because, like you, they’re a little nervous!) Try and find those friends: maybe start with the person you’re closest to in the group. “Hey, what do you think of ABC saying we shouldn’t tag XYZ in the Insta photo?” Boom. Before you know it, you’ll have a group of folks with whom you can take action on whatever’s happening.
That’s it! As always, thanks for reading along; I hope you found these tips helpful, and that you’ll start putting them into practice. 💙 I also hope you’ll be in touch! Maybe you’re loving these Ask Trish posts, or maybe you’re hoping to hone in on a different topic. Either way, I’d love to hear how you’re feeling and thinking about this crazy place that is the Internet. Share any questions or notes you have here (and your topic might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post!). And don’t forget to engage with Ask Trish content when you see it; like and share away!
Until next week,