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What Is Social Bullying?

By Lily Ruha
Updated May 21, 2024
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Social bullying is deliberate, repetitive and aggressive social behavior intended to hurt others. This type of behavior generally includes verbal abuse, gossip or other actions that cause mental and emotional harm and social isolation for the victim. Schools, sports activities, colleges, domestic and work situations and neighborhoods are some of the places in which this type of bullying occurs.

The goal of social bullying is to belittle and harm another individual or group. In middle school, for example, bullying might take the shape of teasing unpopular children. Ridiculing another child’s clothes, making fun of the way he speaks, and mocking his academic achievements or his race or culture are examples of behaviors that a bully might exhibit to gain power over another child.

This type of bullying carries into adulthood in some cases. Such behaviors can be found among family members, in work situations, in college social groups, and in neighborhood activities. Socially sabotaging others by spreading rumors, constantly telling them what to do, and any other behaviors that intentionally cause shame and humiliation and exert control over others can be considered examples.

Social bullying is generally caused by a combination of factors. In almost all cases, the bully lacks empathy for his targeted individual or group. In some cases, he has learned this behavior from observing others, or he may have been the victim of bullying earlier in life. Jealousy is another cause, whereby an individual feels threatened by the characteristics or achievements of another individual and engages in bullying as a way to feel empowered and dominant.

The negative consequences of social bullying are extensive. Victims often suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation, and low self-esteem. Some victims turn to suicide or commit homicidal acts as a result of extreme mental and social pressures. Individuals bullied in childhood may carry the emotional wounds into adulthood, leading to depression, social isolation, and the inability to react appropriately to unjust situations.

Putting an end to this type of bullying generally requires a group effort. Submission on the part of the victim tends to perpetuate the injustice. Those who observe the behavior, such as teachers, students, co-workers, teammates, and family members, need to step in to intervene on behalf of the victim. Victims should not be made to feel that it is their responsibility alone to combat the abuse. Curbing the behavior of the bully is most effective as soon as it occurs and more difficult once the person has found supporters and gained a greater degree of social power.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1004923 — On May 16, 2021

Here's the fact: most social bullying is done for the sadistic pleasure of the narcissistic head. The narcissistic head usually fools the people and converts them into flying monkeys who act of their behalf, blindly thinking the head is a good person who is doing the right thing and is doing justice. That's is what it is, a fake purpose driven by sadistic pleasure.

By anon1003003 — On Apr 10, 2020

I was bullied when I was smaller. I'm in high school about to become a senior. Now that I'm older I don't care what people say. I'm proud to be myself. There are people that want to tear you down. Don't allow them to.

By anon998558 — On Jul 04, 2017

I'm a victim of being embarrassed when I go out. I'm a loner now, and I don't like to be around people. It seems everyone wants to make fun of me.

By anon997806 — On Mar 02, 2017

I feel like one of my friends is being socially bullied. What should I do?

By anon989662 — On Mar 16, 2015

I have been the object of social bullying in my family for 50 years. This article is helping me to recognize, address and protect myself from further bullying.

By anon937662 — On Mar 06, 2014

This has helped me with my exhibition research. Thank you.

And I understand how it feels to be bullied. I am 10 years old, and turning 11 this year. I have not been bullied, but I'm sensitive and I take it as teasing and bullying. Even the words as a joke, "Go away" will make me sad and I will cry about it the whole day. People like my friends are leaving me out. I always ask my friends to wait for me when I'm busy doing something, but they don't. Sometimes, they wait for someone else when they didn't even ask.

I feel confused and annoyed. Why are my friends doing this to me?

By anon347999 — On Sep 12, 2013

It sounds scary when a kid comes home saying they have been bullied, because I'm afraid of how far the bully will actually go to hurt my kid.

By anon340994 — On Jul 07, 2013

My seven year old daughter is a victim of social bullying. We attend a wonderful church where there is a rather nice youth group. There are several girls near her age but they do not reach out to my daughter to let her feel included. She has a good attitude but if this continues, we will have to step in and bring this to the attention of parents.

There is one girl who seems to be the "leader" and she is the pastor's daughter. It seems all the girls follow her and she is the one who mainly excludes my daughter (with the other girls following her example). Once, the girls went into a room to play, and my daughter went in and they told her to leave. Also, one Wednesday night we were leaving and my daughter said "let me go tell the girls good-bye" then stopped herself and laughed saying, "Oh, I forgot. They don't talk to me". This has been very hard. I cry about it more than my daughter and I am praying how to handle this appropriately.

By BAU79 — On Dec 20, 2012

My daughter is in the 7th grade and I worry that she is suffering from social bullying. Over the last year her personality has completely changed and she is no longer the vibrant young woman she use to be. I want to help her but what can I do? I can't fight her battles from her. Does she need help from me, or should I seek out professional advice and guidance?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Dec 19, 2012

I have a friend, not a good friend but someone I see often, who I consider a terrible social bully. I see him a lot when I am out with friends on a Friday or a Saturday night. I feel like whenever I start talking to a girl this guy finds a way to worm his way into the conversation and either make me look bad or make himself look good.

It gets really frustrating. I don't try and ruin his chances when he is talking to someone. It is like a weird ego thing. He is otherwise a nice guy, and I'm not even sure he realizes what he is doing, but if it keeps up I might have to distance myself from him.

By anon302607 — On Nov 10, 2012

Social bullying occurs frequently in the workplace. It can ruin the victim's career and destroy their reputation. In most cases, the victim has done nothing wrong. It is usually started by one person who dislikes the victim in some way or another and uses gossip and name calling to hurt the person. It's a shame. I think it is ignorance and jealousy.

By anon295590 — On Oct 07, 2012

In reality, it is the victim who gets blamed for those who belittle them. Even agony aunts in the papers do this. They will blame the bullied person for having low esteem. So-called person centered counselors can suggest this also. And of course the so-called mental health movement will add insult to injury by diagnosing you 'mentally ill'.

So then you see the catch-22 situation where you are feeling destroyed from bullying but are somehow supposed to magically get the self-esteem to deal with it.

By TDPhill64 — On Apr 07, 2011

@lemondrop5Facebook and other social media can be held legally liable for bullying as well as the account that the bullying came from. As far as the bullying is concerned in schools, there are several programs in place in different schools to stop bullying.

Teachers and parents need to be aware of the symptoms of bullying so that they can take action. While a child can report it to an adult, sometimes these reports are not followed upon. Also a child may fear retribution from the bully in a school setting.

It is all about getting the child to report the problem in the first place. A lot of them will not and it will be up to a parent or teacher to see the signs of the bullying.

By lemondrop5 — On Apr 07, 2011

@tdphill64 - Aren't places like Facebook and MySpace liable for the content that they post on the sites? Also are they not legally liable for the problems?

One other question that I have is is about bullying in schools? What is being done in the schools about bullying?

By TDPhill64 — On Apr 04, 2011

I think it's awful how social bullying has grown to epidemic proportions. Some of us as children were bullied. However in this digital age, the bullying has now gone cyber. There are many different cases that are in the news of children being bullied.

Some of these cases included the death of the bullied child. This is a sad state of affairs in the world today. No matter if you are a child or an adult, bullying can happen to anyone anywhere at any time.

The use of Facebook and other online media has just ramped up the problems with cyber bullying. But this is not the only social site where this happens. Any social site has the ability to allow a user to create a fake profile and cyber bully someone.

It is a crime to cyber bully anyone online. Bullies can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Legislation is currently being enacted in order to fully be able to prosecute bullies.

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