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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It is an unfortunate side of human nature that we are exposed to bullying. 

While most of us grow out of this phase as children, some people remain aggressive in real life and in the virtual world. It is also a known fact that bullying is a learned trait. Although bullying is not permitted here a lot of it does go unreported. The reasons for not reporting bullying may be because there is confusion, fear, shame, doubt and ignorance regarding what happened. Some people may be unaware they are being bullied or feel there is no recourse or assistance available to remedy their situation. In some cases people may simply not know what to do when they run into a bully. 

Have you been bullied by someone on SL? This may be difficult to discern if we are not sure exactly what bullying entails, especially when it applies to the virtual world. In real life, I have run anti-bullying workshops for school children. I found that children were not always aware of exactly what bullying consists of. When it was explained to them they quickly identified situations where they had indeed encountered a bully. I am going to take a similar approach in this article and explain the types of bullying one may experience on Second Life. The examples I present will be taken from actual experiences from some avies on Second Life, including my own personal run-ins with bullies. You may have had similar experiences or you may not have run into bullying yet. I hope you can gain some knowledge on when someone is bullying you and what to do to save yourself from this down side to human nature. I will present a further article on what you can do specifically to stop being bullied on Second Life. In this article I wish to outline the types of bullying and how to identify they type of bullying you may have experienced. 

What is Bullying?

Bullying is defined as "The use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others". The four main types of bullying are; physical, verbal, emotional and cyber bullying. The behavior may be habitual and involve an imbalance of power or may sometimes be very subtle. It may be a single incident or repeated behavior directed towards an individual or group. The bullying may be the result of one person's actions or that of several people. Bullying by a group is called "mobbing". While the U.K. and some other countries do not have specific laws regarding bullying, the United States of American does. Second Life falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. therefore there are laws against bullying on SL. 

Types of Bullying

Physical Bullying

Physical bullying happens on SL. It is defined as the use of physical force to intimidate or control someone. I have been the victim of physical bullying while at a club on Second Life At first, it is hard to tell if the assault was intended. It is always a good idea to gage the specific events to determine if you are actually a "target" of a bullying attack or not. In a public area like a club or mall, you will run into new residents of SL who haven't quite got the hang of moving around yet, and they may bump you. Most make it known it was accidental, some, because of language barriers, may not make it so clear. If possible I move out of their path since it is easier for me. If they follow and repeatedly bump me I will caution them verbally. 

The incident in the club I referred to earlier was an intended hit and the duration of the bullying lasted over a period of weeks. It began suddenly and ended when I made the attacks known to the owner of the establishment. I actually worked at the club at the time of this incident. The first time it happened, I was in the club listening to a dj and suddenly I was not just bumped, but rammed by an avi. I told the avi to please watch where they were going and the immediate reaction was for the avi to backup and ram me again. I immediately put on my emdash and switched on movelock. This did not prevent me from being rammed but it did stop me from being thrown across the club. I was very vocal and told management I was being bumped. When I complained, the avi who rammed me suddenly disappeared. About twenty minutes later, another avi appeared in the club and made straight for me and began bumping me. This occurred night after night, during a certain time period of the day and for weeks on end. It was never the same avi twice who rammed me but a series of "noobs", made just that day. I knew this was not a stranger attack; it was coming from within the club itself. 

Now, you may think, well it's only an avatar and you are not actually physically hurt in any way so why complain? It is upsetting to be pushed across a club when you are just minding your own business and enjoying some entertainment. It is shocking to be suddenly struck; even on SL you can feel the force of the blow. Whether in real life or on Second Life, an assault is real. The intent and the time and effort a bully will put in to get to their target, is incredible. 
Another way a physical assault occurs on SL is to "block" or impede an avatar's movements. If an avatar effectively blocks your avatar from moving in any direction that is also bullying. We are not talking about consensual slavery or submissive behavior here. This is strictly the actions of one avatar bullying another by limiting their movement in a sim on purpose. 

Stalking is also physical bullying although stalking can be included in cyber bullying as well. Physically stalking an avatar on SL is bullying and is against the terms of use. It is the act of constantly closely following someone without their permission wherever they go on SL. It is an implied threat or intimidation. 

Bumping", "pushing" or "blocking" avatars is bullying behavior and is also a practice of griefers. Griefers are bullies in general. They come on SL to cause trouble for other people; it is their intent and actions that qualifies them as bullies in the physical sense. 

Emotional Bullying

Emotional Bullying is often very subtle and is widely used by females, although some males do engage in this type of bullying. Emotional bullying can involve more than one bully, the instigator and their followers. Emotional Bullying consists of the following behaviors; Isolating someone emotionally, shunning and ostracizing a peer by excluding them from conversations, group activities, events, parties and games and spreading lies and rumors about an individual to attack someone's character . Emotional Bullying is any action that causes someone emotional trauma or pain. 

Emotional bullying is a very complex type of bullying and it can become especially nasty. Unfortunately the media of SL enables this type of bully to operate easily. Someone can walk into a venue and carry on conversations only in IM, avoiding having any conversation in local because a certain individual is present and they do not wish that certain individual to take part. This is not "muting" someone. Funny enough, the bullies that use emotional bullying, never mute their intended target. They want the individual to eventually come to the realization that they are being ostracized by them or a group. 

Sometimes they will engage the target in a private conversation and "set them up" with leading questions or subject matter, then "copy and paste" parts of the conversation and use it, out of context, to create rumors and lies about the target, attacking their character or intelligence. They may also put a slight twist on the conversation and show it to the target's friends, boss or significant other, to create difficulties in those relationships. 

Emotional bullying is like the kid in school who brings party invitations and hands them out in class deliberately showing that they are not inviting some people. They want those people to know, they are not invited. It is the same on SL when an individual will not share information, or LMs, especially if they are important to a group function etc. It is always done publically so the intended target is aware they are being shunned. The act has no sting if the individual is unaware of what is happening. 

Those people who are rumor mongers, who constantly pick apart other people and exaggerate their mistakes, are a nightmare. Sooner or later the target becomes aware of the bully's actions either by sensing the shunning or hostility shown them by others or when some well meaning person tells them the things said about them. On SL because conversations can be saved, the latter happens frequently in this situation. 

It is normal to not get along with everyone you meet but as a very wise person once told me “you can dislike someone, that is normal, but you do not have the right to bother them or hurt them". "It is your problem you do not get along, so realize that it is your work to overcome your feelings and you must treat all people with civility and politeness, even those you do not like". "If you are good at, they will never know of your dislike". This is the truth. Watch what you say, keep your personal preferences, likes and dislikes to yourself. They are your problem to deal with. 

The people who are emotional bullies tend to launch into bully mode whenever they encounter someone they don't like. Sooner or later they become known for being a bully, a gossip or rumor monger. They lose respect from their peers and often their SL jobs. The best way for a person to avoid being bullied emotionally is to not give out personal information to too many people. If you are working, maintain a professional attitude toward your co workers. Sometimes you can take the wind out of their sails, by simply ignoring their behavior. Do not fight back with similar behavior, gossiping or spreading lies about the bully. This is often the “drama" referred to in venues with "no drama" signs posted everywhere. Emotional bullying is the bain of a lot of SL venues and the reason why a lot of people break up business relationships on SL. All it takes are a few of these bullies to become part of your business and soon the trouble will start. Emotional bullying is particularly toxic because it is slow to show up, takes a while to build momentum but when it does it is massively destructive. People have ditched their original avatars on SL and created new ones because they have been the victim of emotional bullying. It is not surprising that the bully often has to alt themselves to escape their reputation on their original avatar. I know of a few people who are bullies and they have alted themselves several times. Unfortunately, a change of skin doesn't cure it, a change in attitude will. 

Verbal Bullying

Verbal bullying is common and the easiest to deal with. For some people it's the way they communicate. In the media of the virtual world communication is difficult. Most people type to each other, typos, language barriers and dialects can be a problem. It is also hard to gage the emotion and meaning behind some written statements. There is a lot of room for mistakes and misconceptions on SL. Be mindful of this in particular when trying to decide if you have been verbally abused or not. Ask for clarity if you are confused. 

Most verbal bullying is done in IMs to the intended target. The bully will say something in local, and then instruct the target to "read IMs". Verbal abuse can be prolonged over a period of days. As a few people showed me, their abuse went on for days, in some cases three to five days. Every time they logged in the bully started up and the result was the target muting and blocking the offender. In the instances I was made aware of; it was the same bully in all cases. 
This bully is a person with some power, being the owner of a club. This owner had the schedules of the staff and knew when they would most likely be on SL. As soon as the target logged on, the bully went to work on them. The target didn't even have to be in the vicinity, as a matter of fact a few of the victims were elsewhere working. All through their shift they were subjected to a barrage of verbal abuse by the bully. The victim could not shut the bully down, no matter what they said to calm the situation. The victim asked to be left alone, said they were busy, could they talk later, it didn't phase the bully one bit, they were relentless. In all cases the victims muted the bully and blocked them. However the bully went on an alt and began again, followed by successive muting from the victims. There was no reasoning with the bully. There never is. The verbal abusive bully is usually a person with extreme anger, holds grudges, and is emotionally unstable. 

The best way to deal with this is to not engage the bully at all. At the beginning of the attack, say nothing. Anything you say will be used against you and inflame the bully. Do not try to defend yourself; simply mute the bully and any alts owned by the bully. The one great thing about SL is that you can mute them. You don't have to listen to them and you don't have to defend yourself, just mute them. Ignoring them is the most aggravating thing to a verbal abusive bully and the most effective defense. SL also has another effective function to deal with verbally abusive people and that is turn off sounds when you are around them or turn off gestures. It is too bad those functions are not available in real life. 

Cyber Bullying

in today's world cyber bullying is the newest form of bullying. It is no less destructive and perhaps more so, because it involves some other forms of bullying, emotional and verbal, and can fuel physical bullying. Cyber bullying is extensive, crossing boundaries of the virtual worlds into the real world. It does extreme damage. Cyber bullying has caused people to take their own lives in some cases. Cyber bullying has cost people their jobs and made their lives at school intolerable. People have been physically bullied and in many cases hospitalized because of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying ignites "mobbing" attacks on a target from several sources. 

The reason cyber bullying is so dangerous is that it travels so fast. In the blink of an eye an incriminating or embarrassing picture can be posted on Facebook or YouTube. If you don't have the GPS turned off on your smart phone, people can find your exact location from a picture of you. One quick post to Twitter and you can get a mobbing attack. Ignorance of the net and technology can actually help the bullies get to a target who is less informed that they are. 
How does Cyber Bullying play out on SL? Cyber bullying can involve many things; all of them come from information gained from a target about themselves. Be extremely careful who you give your personal information to on SL. This means your email, your telephone number, your address, and any other virtual programs you take part in, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Be careful what you do on Skype it may go mainstream before you know it. 

Mild cases of cyber bullying are cases in which an avatar is stalking you. If they don't have your personal information it won't go very far at all. If it's a hacker stalker you, you may have to make sure you have security in place on all programs you use. If you are in fear, do not hesitate to contact the SL police. They are real police from many jurisdictions and they can check if someone is stalking you on SL, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Skype. It is illegal on all these programs to stalk or harass people and informing each program in the contact us section and the police can shut the offender down. They can trace a stalker. I have seen it and it didn't take long. 

In one case told to me by a friend on SL, a verbal abusive bully on SL who was muted and blocked, got access to the target's Facebook page and left verbal abusive statements on their page and also harassed family members of the target. I actually have seen this type of behavior several times. You need to set your permissions on Facebook to private or only your friends. It is harder for people to find you if they don't know your name in a fb search. Unless you have absolute trust in someone, know them in real life, or they are a close friend or family member, DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION to anyone. It is illegal on SL for anyone to leak personal real life information about someone to the general public. This is against the terms of use and the offender will be banned from the IP level and in the near future, not just from SL. Protect yourself as best you can. It is also an offence on SL to go out world and harass people from other means with information gained from SL. 

Bullies may try to demand rl pics of you, or have you go on Skype. Think carefully about doing such things. It is better not to arm your enemies against you. You have to remember that all sources pertaining to you, come from you. It is great to meet wonderful people on SL and some real long time, deep friendships do emerge over time. Give yourself the time before handing out your personal information and don't do it because someone demands it. 
Cyber bullying in now part of security checks when applying for jobs in real life. A company can fire or not hire someone for things written on their Facebook page. No matter what your explanation, it can prevent you from getting hired or obtaining a job. 
Bullies who have got someone's phone number have plagued their household with phone calls at all hours of the day and night. If you have call block then do it and report it to your phone company. 

Cyber bullying is stalking someone through all virtual programs and infiltrating their real life against their wishes. Cyber bullying can involve verbal abuse as in the case of the bully writing on the fb page. It can also involve physical abuse, texting people to follow an individual or attack them or mob them. It can involve emotional bullying and blackmail by posting incriminating pictures on Facebook and YouTube and have people commenting terrible things to attack a target. One woman was told she was the ugliest person alive and should end her life. Cyber Bullying is vicious and invasive on a very personal level. It should be reported to Linden Labs immediately and all other programs you use, fb, YouTube, twitter and Skype. It involves work on the target’s part to ensure your security measures are all in place on every single program you use but it's worth it. 

The best way to protect yourself and not be a victim of bullying is to simply be smart about who you give your information to. Don't let yourself be led or coerced into doing things you don't want to do, by anyone. In the case of extreme bullying, report it to LL using the report abuse function on your viewer. Be calm and coherent, keep track of all events and submit any evidence you may have collected on the bullying. Be honest and tell them any mistakes you have made that may have fuelled the incident. Get the full name of the bully and any alts, and anyone else involved 

if its physical bullying like pushing, get an emdash and use the movelock. There are other gadgets but beware of a function called a push bar. If someone bumps you it pushes them back with the same force they used against you. However bumping back is still an offence, you would be better to simply use movelock and report the incident. You have a function called bump report in our viewers, it tells you if you have indeed been bumped and by whom, if you aren't sure. 

Verbal abuse- don't take it. 

Ignore if you can, if that isn’t possible turn off sounds and gestures. If that doesn't work mute the offender. Do not answer them or get into an argument with them. 
Emotional Bullying is difficult. First off, copying and pasting people's conversations without their express permission are not allowed on SL. It is against the terms of use. Should you become aware of it, you need to report it. If such conversations are used as some form of blackmail, then also report it to the SL police as real life charges made me enforced due to rl crime. 
All bullying relies on one thing to in order to be successful and that one thing is the cooperation of the target. Do not cooperate or help the bully. Do not bully them back or get even; do not enter into a useless verbal argument with them. Do not be silent about what is happening. 

Report it to LL, and if it is at a workplace report it to management or the owner. Tell people about what is happening to you, make them aware. Bullying is always done on the sly. Nobody wants anyone to know they are a bully, outwards they put on their nice person face, and all the time they are targeting someone in IMs. They are careful what they do, some try to make look like a joke or they are just having fun. This wears thin. If you work in a venue or store, watch for this behavior, if you see a coworker or patron being bullied; say something about it right away. Bullies are counting on the fact no one knows what is going on, if you do know, say something. Don't tolerate bullying in any shape or form. 

October is national anti-bully month. Make it the month you decide to take a stand on bullying not just on SL, but everywhere you see it. It is a learned trait that can be unlearned. Everyone has the right to come on SL and enjoy their time here. 




  1. Nomad, you wrote a great article! Thank you for spending what looks to be many hours writing it. As a resident who has spent virtually (no pun intended) his whole Second Life career fighting griefers, I wanted to respond to a few points.

    As you said in your introduction, bullying is a part of human nature. A certain percentage of kids are bullies and a certain percentage of SL residents are griefers. That will never change, no matter how many RL anti-bullying laws we make and no matter how many SL Abuse Reports we write. It's good to declare that bullying and griefing is illegal and wrong, but I don't think it's good to give people the false hope that it can ever be stopped.

    Although Second Life does fall under the laws of the US and the State of California, I believe it would be hard to apply those laws to all of the griefing that goes on inworld. For example, the local police in California are not going to log in to SL and slap the virtual handcuffs on the avatar who pushed you inside the club. The club owner should be watching for griefers in his club and he should eject them the moment they start causing trouble. If he doesn't, and you still want to hear the DJ, just sit on something. That makes you invulnerable to pushing, and you can ignore the griefers who try to annoy you.

    The Linden Lab Terms of Service does address stalking, but if you search for the word "stalk," you will find that in both places where the word occurs, it only applies to stalking minors. However, the second item of the "Big Six" Community Standards is Harassment, which is defined in part as an action that is "likely to cause annoyance or alarm." Although that rule can apply to every form of bullying that you mention in your article, it would be extremely difficult to get Linden Lab to take any action, given the current depleted state of their governance team.

    You said that emotional bullying is widely used by females. In my experience, furries are the most prolific creators of emotional bullying reports. I've been called to furry sims many times to report or mediate a harassment complaint, only to find that there is no (or ambiguous) evidence to create an Abuse Report. No one knows who started the drama, or it was a misunderstanding and not really drama, or the perpetrator denies saying it and no one on the scene actually heard it. Even with all of that, I still respond and try to help whenever anyone calls.


  2. (part 2)

    Your advice about keeping your personal information private is excellent. One of my friends put her RL photo in her SL profile and included a link to her Facebook page, which was registered in her RL name. Her Facebook page listed the town where she lived, the fact that she was a single mother, and had photos of her two young sons. I pointed out that this was a recipe for disaster, but she wasn't worried about it. One night a friend of hers told her that he was creating an alt and would contact her with it later. She was chatting with me and forgot about him. A few minutes later, she was contacted in IM by the guy's alt. As a joke, he started a stalkerish conversation, asking whether she would taste good if he cooked her and finally confirming that he was interested in meeting her in RL and devouring her. At first, she laughed it off as a joke, but when he persisted, she became very alarmed and sent me the IM. I contacted the guy, who revealed who he really was and pointed out that he had told her he would be calling later. She had a good laugh about the whole affair, but it scared her enough that she removed the profile links to her social media.

    Your advice about blocking abusers is great also. You don't have to listen to verbal abuse. There's a funny story about that, though. I know a couple of ladies who started verbally abusing each other. That escalated to a full-blown feud, and finally they blocked each other. But apparently they weren't too sure they wanted to let go of the feud, so each one created a profile pick and entered some nasty comments about their opponent. And they would read each other's profile picks, and change them in response to what the other person had posted, so the feud continued. Finally one of them contacted me to ask if I would report the other person's pick as harassment. I refused to do so as long as she maintained her own abusive pick. She wouldn't remove it, so that was the end of that conversation. You're absolutely correct about needing two sides to keep an argument going. If you block and ignore the other person, their abusive posts go into thin air, and it won't be long before they look for a new victim.

    You spoke of a group called the "SL police" several times. Who are they and how can they be contacted?

    Thanks again for the great article. I hope everyone reads it!

  3. The people not reading your blogs are missing out a lot of quality contents.virtual assistant

  4. It's 2018 and the abuse still goes on. I made a short film about my own experience.

  5. I am a victim of Emotional Bullying for months already. Too bad this article dates back in 2013. It's 2020 now, SL has gone through a lot of changes, and there's nowhere to get help from.


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