The Spiral of Bullying

As communication methods evolve and change, there are many positive and negative effects on the way our society communicates. Modern communication has given us the ability to reach one another easily, at the touch of a button. On the downside, modern communication now almost exclusively uses online technology, which can foster destructive or harmful behaviors. An example of this is cyber bullying. Bullying has always been an issue, but now that it has taken the form of online harassment, the torment never stops for the bullied.

Cyber bullying, especially online, forces the bullied to partake in behavior that further isolates them. The Spiral of Silence Theory says that people tend to remain silent when they fear that their views do not lie with the majority opinion. The theory states that people remain silent for two main reasons: the fear that they will be rejected and the fear that they will be isolated. The longer people remain silent, the more they spiral into a state of total silence, in which they will never voice their opinion.

spiral_of_silence-1

Cyber bullying can take many shapes and forms in our modern technological era. According to stopbullying.gov, cyber bullying is bullying that takes place on an electronic device. Examples of cyber bullying include, malicious text messages or emails, gossip sent on social media devices, posting humiliating pictures or fake profiles. Those who are bullied are more likely to turn to dangerous behaviors to cope with the feeling of being rejected and teased. In 2013, The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 14.8 % of students nationwide have been bullied online within the last year.

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Now that bullying has become an online phenomenon, the bullies can remain anonymous and they can harass their victims everyday at any hour. This forces the bullied into a perpetual state of silence because it is increasingly hard for them to fight back. Victims may now have to endure face-to-face bullying as well as cyber bullying. So now even when they are finally alone, they still have to withstand the pressures of bullies. This results in the bullied becoming further isolated because they feel that they have nowhere to turn.

The Spiral of Silence Theory helps explain why students feel that they cannot speak up when they are being bullied. This theory applied to bullying in the past, but it is even more relevant now that communication has evolved to predominantly online methods. The bullied will continue to fall deeper into the spiral as they feel more and more isolated by their peers. Although the statistics have changed in favor of the bullied, we still have a way to go to stop it altogether and end the silence.

– Hannah Rodgers

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33 thoughts on “The Spiral of Bullying

  1. Great post Hannah! This will be an ongoing topic in our day and age especially as technologies are forever advancing. It is a great theory to apply to the topic but is something I never really thought of when thinking about bullying. This is why I think it is great that you included this in the discussion. This is a very thought provoking post, great job!

  2. Hannah, I enjoyed reading your post. I think that this is such an important topic which really needs to be brought to the light. I really found it interesting how you applied this theory to bullying. I agree so much with it. Usually people do not defend others because majority does not agree with it. I think that this will help show students how to better defend their classmates.

  3. Abigail and Grace,

    Thanks for your feedback! This is a very current issue that is important to bring to everyone’s attention. It was interesting to explore how the evolution of communication has changed the way people go about bullying. In today’s society, almost everything is done through the internet and that is no different for bullying and harassment. When you take a second and think about it, communication theories, like The Social Penetration Theory, apply to many things in our everyday lives. Thanks again!

  4. I have a hard time with how I feel about the future of bullying. Cyberbullying will continue to occur more frequently because of the anonymity factor that many of the different social media applications now have, allowing bullying to occur without a face while still demeaning an individual or group. However, when bullying takes place in person I believe that our generation and society and the generation that will come after us are much more likely to speak out to not allow it to continue to occur. We will only continue to learn from our past and I believe the society truly do realize that it’s wrong. It’s unfortunate that the negative connotation of bullying isn’t quite as effective when one is on an anonymous social media website allowing them to bully random individuals. It’s sad that people want to take time out of their day to even do that.

  5. Such a great topic to make note on. Personally I’ve never stopped to think about how this really is a major issue that is currently going on. I feel like more of cyber bulling is going on because the victims are afraid to stand up to the one who is tormenting them and are scared to speak out on what is taking place. I completely agree with your post!

  6. Griffin and Kayanna,

    I’m glad that you guys enjoyed the post and that it made you realize how serious of an issue this is. Unfortunately, this is a serious problem in today’s society. However, there are some great organizations that have formed to help combat cyber bullying. These organizations, such as End to Cyber Bullying and Stomp Out Bullying, are aimed at raising awareness on the seriousness of cyber bullying and how to stop it. I hope that one day they are able to completely eliminate cyber bullying!

  7. With technology advancing on a day to day basis, I think it is important to address the consequences and future complications it may have on our society. You guys did a great job of doing just that. It is sad to think that something that can be so beneficial is being used for something hurtful. I hope that someone can find a solution to break the silence.

  8. This is such a thought provoking post and a serious issue that affects people everywhere. Bullying has become more prevalent, especially cyber bullying, from advances in technology which enable the bully’s ability to “hide” behind the internet and bully people without having to face their victim. Relating bullying to The Spiral of Silence Theory is such a great comparison. Everyday people are bullied or witness bullying but stay silent because it is unpopular to stand up for your beliefs if they do not align with the majority/popular. Fortunately, their are many campaigns to encourage people to speak up. Many celebrities are supporting the “STOMP Out Bullying” campaign and sharing their own stories to help encourage those who suffer from bullies to stand up for themselves and put an end to bullies everywhere.

  9. I think this is a great blog post. Unfortunately bullying, especially cyber bullying, is a huge issue in today’s society with the increase of social media use. It is extremely sad to think of all of the kids who are bullied and feel like they have no where to go. I had just read an article about an 11 year-old girl who donated her hair and it was at an extremely short length where she was bullied for looking like a boy. She was bullied so badly that she wanted to change schools and the principle commented that no one can die from words. I cannot believe that an adult could ever say something like that because someone CAN die from words by committing suicide. It is so incredibly sad that young kids commit suicide because of being bullied. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed in every school.

    • Brenna, Jessica and bla1772,

      I’m glad this post got you all thinking about cyber bullying as a serious issue. As our methods of communication change and evolve, so does the way we communicate. You all touched on how serious bullying can be and that is a problem that not many people address. They don’t realize how bad it can get for the bullied. Thanks for taking the time to comment your thoughts!

  10. It’s really sad that today’s youth has to experience this problem. I think back to what middle and high school were like for me and thankfully we didn’t have the internet back then. Bullying for some kids was bad enough but to add in the internet is an extra stress. I’m glad there are organizations to help with kids being bullied but I honestly don’t see it from ever stopping. I cringe when I think what my kids will have to go through as technology increases.

  11. I really enjoyed reading your post and think it’s great how you used this theory with it. Bullying is a huge deal in today’s world and sadly will probably continue. Hopefully people will stop being so scared or keeping to themselves and not saying anything to people who are bullying someone. I believe that this will really help with the bullying going on in classrooms and at schools.

  12. Hannah,
    I think that this topic is one that still is considered a “gray area” today. Social media is an outlet that many people use to express themselves, yet in some cases this freedom is being abused. The hardest thing about this is that it is hard to figure out a solution to this problem, unless one looks at every individual case of “bullying” and figures out where to go from there. I think it is interesting that you mention that bullying with social media is lessening, because I remember when I first started to use social media sites, and it was a huge problem. I still remember “ask.fm” which allowed people to post anonymously about particular individuals, but I haven’t heard of anyone still using that to this day. This leads me to believe that people are learning to be more careful with what they say on the internet, which is definitely progress!

    • Carly, Robert and James,

      Thanks for your feedback! Now that communication has evolved and bullying is primarily online, it is harder to track and stop the behavior. With online methods, bullies can now use anonymity to avoid the repercussions of being mean to someone else.

  13. Hannah, I really enjoyed reading this. The way you linked bullying and the theory together is something that I would have never thought of. However, I find it interesting that social media sites still allow this to go on. We all know that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have people monitoring activity on these social media networks. Also as mentioned above, I too believe that our society is more likely to stand up for themselves in a personal confrontation rather than one over social media, and from observations I have made this is the case, even though it doesn’t make sense, because we are such a technology driven society. I feel like the way we are glued to our phones in today’s times that it would be the other way around.

  14. I thought this was a really great article and something that definitely applies to society today. When reading this and particularly the part about the Spiral of Silence Theory a show that I recently watched popped into my mind called, “What Would You Do?”. This should perfectly exemplarizes this theory in that during certain situations and bullying they present, people are more likely to ignore it when no one else calls attention to it, and yet are more likely to get involved when others are doing so as well.

  15. A great topic to discuss. Cyberbullying and bullying in general is an incredible harmful act that is causing great tragedy in today’s society. Hannah, your pick of The Spiral of Silence Theory was an excellent choice and something that almost everyone can relate to from past experiences. This spiral of silence is incredibly unfortunate in term of bullying as bystanders are afraid to communicate their opposing opinions to that of the bully. Our society is bringing more awareness to the harmful effects of all types of bullying in our society and hopefully one day the issues will no longer be an issue.

    • Carol, Lindsay and Taylor,

      Thanks for your comments! You all touched on the connection to the Spiral of Silence Theory. This theory was a perfect fit to explain why the bullied don’t speak up for themselves. They are in a perpetual state of silence and there is nothing they can do. As the bullying continues, they fall deeper and deeper into this silent state. Thanks again!

  16. Interesting use of Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence with bullying. Bullying is absolutely an issue within the United States and worldwide; it’s surprising to hear 14.8% of students have been bullied within the last year across the country. I have to agree with you to a large extent as the pressures of bullying can suppress individuals into isolation and the feeling of being rejected. As for cyber-bullying, it’s a new entire playing field, which I believe to make it easier for bullying to take place. If there was a factor that could intervene with the spiral down, then the theory could be disproved.
    Great post to read!

  17. I have never thought of cyber bullying in this sense of spiraling into a state of silence, but I think this is a perfect way to describe it. Techonlogy has evolved so rapidly, and is now accessible to a vast amount of people. Bullying once only occurred when you were at school or maybe at the playground, but now its when your in your room at home. Bullies are able to attack others into silence at anytime, anywhere. I really enjoyed this post.

  18. Most people think of bulling as the stereotypical big kid who picks on the nerds and steals their lunch money, but like you said it’s so much different now in this society. With the advancement of technology people can hide behind walls so they seem tough and can do what they want without having to be face to face with the people they bully. It’s great to see so many programs, and people trying to stop this behavior completely. I saw an ad the other day on TV that was an entire corky little rap song sung by kids saying how to stop bullying. It is becoming more aware to people that bullying needs to stop! Great post and message to bring to an online blog where people’s opinions can easily be “Bullied”.

    • Cole, Elliott and Joshua,

      Thanks for your feedback! Technology advances everyday and so does the way we choose to communicate. As communication methods change we have to find ways to adapt. People now have an online outlet to bully people and it is harder to police. Thanks for taking the time to think about how this has changed the way people are bullied!

  19. What really struck me from your post was the idea that cyber bullying can happen any time of day. Unlike when I was younger and you just had to dread going to the classes you shared with bullies now there is no escaping it. That is a scary thought to me. It is sad to think that social media, an advance that is meant to bring people together, can be a vehicle for antisocial behavior.

  20. Honestly, this is a topic that I think about quite often. I have a younger sister who uses the computer frequently. She is in middle school, and we all know how kids in middle school are. I always tell her that if someone is being mean to her, or harassing her she can tell me. I want her to know that it is unacceptable to be treated poorly anywhere, even on the Internet. I think that more needs to be done about cyber bullying. It is very dangerous because people can stay anonymous. Maybe there should be people monitoring social networks and regulating what can be said to put an end to this. We definitely need to find a solution.

  21. Sadly, cyber bullying is becoming an increasingly relevant topic in our society today. Along with this comes a need for awareness and prevention and action. I have seen multiple girls be victimized on anonymous social medias, such as Yik Yak, and are deeply hurt because so many people see it, they are unable to defend themselves, and have no idea who the person is behind the post. I am glad that this issue is gaining more rapport and there are organizations dedicated to reducing and eventually eliminating cyber bullying.

  22. I love this post because it brings awareness to cyber bullying! I was bullied in high school and now my sister is being bullied as she goes through high school. The difference is that she is being cyber bullied. I am not sure if this is a statistic but I feel that the homosexual population has an extra difficult time dealing with cyber bullying. I only take this from my experience as my sister is a lesbian and has received tons of bullying messages on both Facebook and Instagram. My sister shouldn’t have to fear who she is or keep quiet about it just because someone else does not have the same beliefs or values she does. She also gets negative comments at school so being bullied online just adds more pressure to her and affects her even more negatively. The more awareness organizations like stopbullying.gov and people like yourself can bring about cyber bullying the better I feel about the chances we have at stopping it. I hope one day in the future my sister will no longer have to worry about hateful comments or messages on the internet and that cyber bullying will go away. Thank you for your post and know that you’re making a difference in the fight against cyber bullying!

  23. Hannah,

    I am glad that you decided to write about cyber bullying, because I think that people do not see this as a big deal. However, because of today’s technology, more and more teens are considering suicide. Some of my family members have been bullied over the internet and it has scarred them for years, and no one was punished. This needs to be continuously discussed so that we can make a change to stop the harassment. With all the technological advancements, there should be an even bigger advancement of ceasing cyber bullying.

  24. This is a great piece about a very relevant topic for the younger generation. If cyber bullying its not properly handled, it has the potential to escalate as technology advances. As socializing has transitioned from personal communication to mediated communication though technology, so did bullying, On one hand, bulling in our generation largely took place at school, probably at recess, and for the most part ridicule ended as soon as we went home. The coming generations of kids face the potential of have the name calling, shaming, and teasing following them home, as different social networking sites provide bullies a number of platforms of which they can abuse,

  25. I know that the topic of bullying is going to be a harder topic to stop. Many people hide behind their computers and it’s just sad. I’m really glad you did a post about this because people just don’t think what they say and do on the internet!

  26. Sarah, Abigail, and Carey,

    Thanks for your comments! This topic has a lot of relevance in today’s society. People don’t always realize it because the bullying can be anonymous now that communication has evolved to online methods.

  27. Cyberbullying has been on the radar of concerned parents, administrators, and authority figures for the better part of the last two decades. In my opinion the most startling part about the whole ordeal is the ingenuity and determination that children and teenagers have to humiliate and hurt one another. Every time a block or preventative measure is put in place they seem to find their way around it. Hopefully as our technology advances, our humanity might follow suit. And this problem will fade into a relic unique to our generation.

    • Jonny,
      Bullying, in any form, definitely goes beyond just technology and having access to it. As Hannah said in the post, those who are bullying others can remain anonymous online and that makes it even more scary to see how far this problem will continue to go. Hopefully young adults will see that the spiral of silence does not mean that their voices aren’t heard, but rather that their minority opinion is more unique! Thanks for posting!
      -Kaitlyn

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