Last night Channel 4 showed a creepy drama, simply called Cyberbully. The whole film took place in one room and, apart from the beginning, only one character, Casey, was ever on camera. Maisie Williams (who you will recognise from Games of Thrones) gave a sterling performance, especially when you consider that her acting partner was a disembodied computer voice. Although very much set in the modern age, Cyberbully reminded me of the Play for Today dramas that used to be shown on the BBC (by the way, they were usually brilliant and ran for fourteen years – surely there’s enough material out there for another series?).
Maisie was an inspired choice, having herself been the victim of teenage cyber bullying in school after being cast in Games of Thrones – honestly, bloody kids. You can read Maisie’s bullying article in The Telegraph here.
It’s not just a teenage problem
Of course, the focus of media reports about these kinds of abuse has been on teenagers. Teenagers are the easiest to target, due to their voracious appetites for all new things social media. They are also an easy target for vilification when they are the perpetrators. However, the line between victim and perpetrator isn’t as clear cut as all that. It is also a growing phenomenon amongst adults – perhaps it’s just a behaviour you don’t grow out of. We put out a call on Facebook and Twitter for anyone who wanted to share their experience of cyber bullying, and of all our respondents, not one was a teenager. Fame certainly doesn’t help. As soon as your image is broadcast it seems that some people out there have a need to target you. Dare I say that the source of this behaviour is understandable. Don’t we all have a nasty little monster inside of us who doesn’t find it hilarious to disparage a performer for their looks, voice or wooden acting. Even Maisie admits that her response to being attacked online was to give as good as she got. She was only thirteen, though. Campaigns like the NSPCC ShareAware are there to help parents better understand the problem and how to help their children.
One of the people who contacted us was Helen Raw. Helen is an actress, singer and producer with ten films in post-production, and one about to run the festival gauntlet. She has two projects in pre-production, and is also studying forensic psychobiology. Phew! She is also a voluntary secretary to one of Equity’s Scottish branches and campaigns for fair pay, and blocking dodgy agencies charging upfront fees. It was particularly this latter issue that drew ire from the web. After an article in The Stage, a bizarre series of comments started flowing and quickly became personal attacks. Most of the worst have been removed now, but we’ve included the link to show how a mild initial comment can escalate to trolling. Although she found the experience upsetting at the time, she feels that just ignoring trolls is probably the best solution. If you don’t nibble they can’t reel you in. Another comment came from actress and author Tracy Whitwell, known for her roles on tv and her novels. Tracy swiftly dealt with trolls in a similar way. As she says: “I have been told that I behave like a drunken harlot on Twitter by an uptight loony woman. I blocked her and that was it.” However, both of these women have been in the industry for a while and it is a tough place to be even at the best of times, having to constantly deal with negative criticism of your work. Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt though.
Teenagers are a different matter. Bullying at school has always been an aspect of childhood, but in the past the unfortunate victim could at least return home, and feel safe in the company of parents. That’s no longer the case, as the bully can follow them into their own bedrooms, pursuing them relentlessly via online chat forums and social sites such as Ask.fm and Formspring.me (now changed to Spring.me), which both allow anonymity. The cyber bully attacking Maisie showed the kind of hacking skills that would make an entire department of MI6 proud, but the fact remains that victims, so desperate to fit in, make those kinds of skills irrelevant. In trying to defend themselves they merely encourage the offender.
How to defeat the cyber bullies
So, as promised, here are our 10 suggestions to help combat The Cyber Troll.
1. Think about what you post – Do you want the whole world to see it. Every one person you tell a secret to increases the risk of being passed exponentially.
2. Check your settings – use privacy and security settings so that only friends and family can see it.
3. Don’t use mother’s maiden name as a password – use a random generator and memorise it or write it down and keep it where no-one even your BFF or Dog knows about it.
4. Don’t post or register any personal information – age, birthday, address, phone numbers or emails. Your real friends already know them.
5. Delete old accounts
6. Direct message when having a private conversation
7. Get a good anti-virus software
8. Be careful what apps and programs you download – check reviews with a cynical eye when downloading from file sharing sites.
9. If you think you might be a victim of cyber bullying, tell someone you trust – and get practical help or:
10. Contact http://www.cybersmile.org
Snoovies has a short film by Nathan Byron and Theresa Varga, featuring the brilliant actor Isaac Ssebandeke, called YouTroll. It takes an alternative view of this grim issue by showing us (not sympathising, I hasten to add) the thoughts of the troll. It’s a perfect example of how a short film can say so much. It doesn’t allow you the option of simply lumping trolls as evil entities that must be destroyed. It’s cleverly written, well acted and wonderfully directed. Initially this was going to be an in house experiment in technique, but has been so popular that it has only just finished the festival circuit, and has put the producers well and truly on the cinematic map. Don’t have the app? Then click one of the icons below.
Text by Karsten Huttenhain