Friday, April 19, 2013


Simply a matter of opportunity?  Cocking & van den Hoven use as an example of "our offline social lives ... being changed for the worse by the predominance of social life online." the "explosion of various kinds of bullying online." (in "One Thousand Friends", (2012) Ethics & Information Technology 14:179-184)  I'm not sure that this is fair to the online world.  Cyber-bullies may well not engage in bullying in the physical world, but I would argue that the difference in approach is not due to desire or intent, but more likely due to opportunity.  Put simply, there is more of it online, and, importantly, acting online favours or promotes a different set of characteristics than does acting offline.  This means that people who lacked the opportunity to engage in bullying in the physical world, whether because they had no easy targets, or were not physically capable of playing the bully role, are able to play the role online, as there are both more targets, and a different set of relevant characteristics.  This explanation seems borne out by the people who are caught being cyber-bullies.  Not all, but many of them, are not those whom bullying is traditionally associated with.  Opportunity, then, looks like a good explanation for the 'explosion'.  People aren't getting any worse, they are just getting opportunities to be bad which did not exist for them before.

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