Social bullying

Estimated read: 9 minutes 

Being socially bullied is the second most common form of bullying, after name calling. This type of bullying is also known as covert and relational bullying as it is designed to humiliate and damage someone socially.

Key points: 

  • When you are faced with social bullying, your first instinct may want to isolate yourself and withdraw from all social situations, online and face to face. This is a natural emotion as you try to protect yourself 
  • Asking for help to get this stopped is not a weakness, even having someone to talk to can help enormously! Get your loved ones on board
  • Don’t let the small minded actions of other dull your shine. Be kind, be confident and love who you are. The bullies will soon get bored when they don’t get a reaction
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What is social bullying?

This sort of bullying is often harder to recognise and is often carried out behind the back of the person who is being bullied. It includes:

  • Lying, fake rumours and spreading gossip
  • Encouraging others to turn against someone
  • Leaving someone out constantly and encouraging others to do the same
  • Socially excluding someone online, cyberbullying, negative comments on posts and images
  • Damaging someone's social reputation or social acceptance
  • Using humiliating nicknames and continuing when asked to stop

It isn’t easy for someone going through this to accept when the line crossed from being a prank or banter to persistent bullying. By the time you realise it is bullying, it may feel harder to seek support.

How it might make you feel

When you are faced with social bullying, your first instinct may want to isolate yourself and withdraw from all social situations, online and face to face. This is a natural emotion as you are trying to protect yourself from harm.

Emotionally, your self-esteem and confidence might be taking a knock and you may be experiencing anxiety and depression which can have a serious knock on your emotional and mental health and well-being. Another emotion you may feel is anger and this may develop into aggressive behaviour. The anger and frustration can feel destructive so getting help is important.

All of these emotions are a process, it is a journey that you go through to help you understand how your feelings. It is important to try and speak to an adult you trust, such as your parents, a teacher or a relative perhaps.Seeking support can help you gain the strength you need to get the bullying stopped.

Why do they bully?

It is hard to fully understand the reasons behind why people feel the need to bully others. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Attention seeking behaviour, doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative.
  • Might be a need for them to think they can get what they want from being a bullying.
  • To impress others and think they are gaining respect and popularity amongst their peers
  • To punish people they are jealous or envious of, so targeting them for bullying.
  • Because others are doing it and they too afraid to speak up.                            
  • They may have low self-esteem, confidence and possible anger issues.
  • Been bullied themselves.

Whatever the reasons may be, it does not give anyone the right to make others feel low or bully others to make themselves feel better.

What if the bullies have taken your friends away

You can feel very lonely if the bullies have taken your friends away. Often friends are afraid they'll also be bullied if they go around with you. It's always very upsetting when friends turn against you which is a good reason to try to make as many friends as you can, even those in different years.

If the bully has taken your friends away you could have a word with each of your friends individually, at a time when nobody else is around, and just sound them out. You could try to get them talking about something they did at the weekend and then just say that you used to be friends with them and you're not sure why that changed. Tell them that you'd really like their support.

You're probably not the only one being bullied who has to spend break and lunch hour on your own. Keep your eyes open. If you see someone else on their own try to start a conversation, about anything, schoolwork, if you think you know their sister, if you think they might live near you, anything at all.

Making new friendships

To have friends you also need to be a friend and you can do that by trying to be open and friendly with people and asking how they are and striking up general conversations. This isn't always easy, but if you just ask someone if they had a nice weekend then it gives them the chance to say something back and then you can try to continue the conversation.

People love talking about themselves so in time you'll find people who like doing that because you'll come across as a good listener and then people will enjoy your company and you'll find you have the same interests as some of these people which is the first step towards real friendship.

Tips on overcoming social bullying

Dealing with social bullying can be tough. Here are some tips:

Trust your instincts – Friends that care will never bully! The ones who do, were never your friends in the first place.

See the bigger picture – Easier said than done but just remember those who are bullying may have issues and although this is no excuse, it may be a reason as to why they are choosing to act this way. 

Ask for help – Asking for help to get this stopped is not a weakness, even having someone to talk to can help enormously! Get your loved ones on board.

Get involved - Join a group that offers activities that you really like and that give you a chance to shine. You might even want to use your experiences to set up a peer support group for those who are being bullied.

Be yourself – Don’t let the small minded actions of other dull your shine. Be kind, be confident and love who you are. The bullies will soon get bored when they don’t get a reaction.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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