Bullying Stories: A History Of Bullying

By Sarah Fader

Updated February 03, 2020

Reviewer Kristen Hardin

We are creatures of tribalism and aggression. As such, bullying has been a problem since the beginning of time. We try to live in a civilized, peaceful society, but there are some who want to let out aggression on someone weaker than them, and trying to handle bullying and trying to prevent it has been a problem for a long time. In this article, we'll look into bullying, talk about a few stories, and teach what you can do to prevent it.

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What Constitutes As Bullying?

When we imagine bullying, we may think of the big kid pushing the little kid around in the playground. However, bullying can happen at any age and in any location. While bullying can be different depending on the situation, there are three factors that most bullying situations have.

  • Intent. Accidentally offending someone is probably not bullying. Those who bully know what they are doing and harm were intended. There was no misunderstanding.
  • Power Imbalance. In most cases, the bully is more powerful. This doesn't mean that the bully is necessarily bigger or stronger than the other person. The bully can be in a higher position of authority, such as a superior at work. They can be someone who comes from a rich family who will sue if the someone fights back.
  • Repetition. Someone who is mean to you once is not a bully. A bully is someone who repeats their behavior over time. The severity of their bullying may increase over time to get under the skin of the victim.

Why Do People Bully?

Figuring out why people bully is perhaps the biggest question out of all this. It depends on the situation. Possible reasons for why people bully include:

  • Family Issues. If someone's parents are mistreating them, they may develop bullying tactics. Also, bullying someone weaker than them makes them feel satisfied and helps them to cope. This is not an excuse; it's merely the reason.
  • Power. Some people, when they have power over someone, do not know how to control it, and use it for bad rather than good.
  • Some People Are Just Born That Way. They are the bad sad, the black sheep. There may be mental reasons why they bully.
  • Insecurity. They may bully to cover up insecurity of their own.

Traditional Bullying

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This is what most of us think of when we think of bullying. Traditional bullying involves children and adolescents. It can be physical, such as pushing a kid around during recess, or verbal. Name-calling, excluding the child, and spreading rumors are just a few examples.

Childhood is an important part of a person's development, so someone who is bullied is going to have self-esteem issues and other mental problems as they grow older. Meanwhile, the bully may suffer from aggression if the problem is not fixed.

At best, the bullied learns to cope with it, and perhaps the bullying goes away in time. However, the bullying can be so intense that it can cause mental problems, and possibly lead to suicide.

There are some who believe bullying someone to suicide is a new thing. They have a romanticized view of the past, where the bullied used to stand up or deal with it. However, suicide is not a new outcome of bullying. In 1877, William Arthur Gibbs hung himself after being physically bullied. The English child was only 12 years old.

Also, public outcries to bullying are not new, either. Gibbs's suicide caused an outcry, and there was an investigation.

Plus, many suicides may have been caused by bullying but were not attributed. There may be many more bullying suicides than one suspects.



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One of the big problems in the digital age is cyberbullying. Beforehand, bullying required some strength and power to take effect. In the cyber world, anyone can cyberbully. They can be anonymous, they can say things they would never say to one's face, and the effects can be as bad as regular bullying.

Cyberbullying has risen to the mainstream as the Internet has. It's also even more complicated to figure out what is cyberbullying.

Trolling, which is saying something provocative to get a negative reaction, can be bullying, but depending on the context, it can also just be some harmless fun. Going into a forum dedicated to basketball and posting a comment that says "basketball sucks" is probably not cyberbullying, but instead some harmless trolling. Constantly targeting one individual with harassing comments? Now that is cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying may be difficult to stop. You can block someone's account, but they can make a new one. With internet mob culture, they can say some libelous words about you and get people riled up. Depending on where you live, there may be laws against it, but it's hard to enforce at times.

Cyberbullying can have negative effects on those who have received it. Those who are cyberbullied may have anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Let's look at the Megan Meier case, a case that proved that cyberbullying was a problem in the emerging social media age.

In 2006, a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier hung herself after an incident that happened on MySpace, a social media platform popular during that time. She had weight issues, depression, and ADHD, so she didn't have too many friends. One day, she was friended by "Josh Evans." Josh was apparently a 16-year-old who wanted to be friends. They hit it off. They talked regularly, but not in person or on the phone. Josh talked about how pretty Megan was, and all seemed to be well.

Then, the messages became nastier. Josh said he didn't want to be friends anymore, and then he ended by telling Megan that the world would be better without her. It was a bait and switch. Josh didn't want to be friends with her. Josh wanted to make her even more depressed, and his plan worked. And the biggest part? Josh wasn't even a real person.

Instead, the person was three people. It was the work of Meier's neighbor, Lori Drew, her teenage daughter, and another woman named Ashley Grills. They all used to be friends with the Meier family, and they took to extreme measures when things went sour.

The culprits were tried, but ultimately they got off scot-free. However, anti-bully laws were passed, so Megan's death was not in vain.

There is nothing wrong with having an online friend, but if your child is talking to someone online who they've never met, you should make sure the person is real. Luckily, video chats have made it easier for people to verify if the person they are talking to is real.

Workplace Bullying

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Bullying does not end once school ends. The workplace is a breeding grounds for bullying. There are many situations when one worker does not belong with the rest, and they may be picked on as a result. There are also many power imbalances for people to bully. Your boss can bully you, another higher up can bully you, and someone who is trying to make it to the top may employ dirty tactics to keep you down.

Workplace bullying is not recognized by law in the US, despite many states wanting to introduce bills. Often, the person who is being bullied feels depressed, fears to go to work, but may feel like they cannot switch jobs.

Workplace bullying can lead to suicide as well. One such example was Kevin Morrissey. In 2010, he shot himself. Kevin was the managing editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, and he filed over a dozen complaints to HR about his treatment from his boss. Despite this, there was nothing done. After his suicide, no fault was found.

Kevin was 52, proving that bullying suicides are not just from teenagers or young adults. It can happen to anyone. Workplace bullying is even more troublesome because our culture turns a blind eye from bosses who don't lead but instead dominate and target those who are weaker. However, workplace bullying is getting more recognition, and maybe one day, it will be a crime.

Seek Help!

If you're being bullied, it may be difficult to figure out what to do. Sometimes, telling the higher-ups do not work. Other times, you may be too weak to fight back. That's the problem with bullying; usually, the bullied has no way to fight back, and despite the public's outcry for support, support is sometimes ineffective or ignores the bullied altogether.

One such way to resist bullies is to get training to help you be able to ignore their tactics and stay positive. If the bullying does not affect you, it can push the bullies away. Talking to a therapist or a counselor can help you learn the techniques needed to stop bullying in its tracks.

While there is always going to be a bully, together we can resist them and stop bullying.

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