A 19-year-old FSU sophomore went back to her dorm in Towers after a long day of classes, tests and a fight with her best friend which resulted in the two of them ending their friendship.
While studying for mid-terms, the student’s phone kept going off throughout the middle of the night.
“It was a number I didn’t recognize so I didn’t answer any of the texts,” said the student, who wanted to remain anonymous. “They were just simple messages saying, ‘Hey,’ ‘What’s up,’ ‘What are you doing? I just assumed they had the wrong number.”
A few minutes of not responding, the messages started to come in more frequently and became mean. One message read, “Are you too scared to answer me? You dumb slut all you do is hide in your dorm anyway because everyone hates you. You’re better off just dropping out of here and not coming back.”
The harassment continued for three days. “I just ignored the messages. There were 37 in total sent to me,” said the student. “I never reported it to anyone because I just let it go. I never dropped out and have plenty of friends on and off campus. I never really thought of it as cyber bullying. I’d say it was extremely immature.”
Although this is a college campus, cyber bullying still takes place whether it is through text messages, Facebook messages or Twitter accounts.
According to www.cyberbullying.us, the definition of cyber bullying is, “A willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Another common method involves posting humiliating or embarrassing information about someone on a public forum.”
The student said, “I never responded. I found it kind of humorous because with technology these days, all I had to do was type the number into Google and I could do a reverse look-up of the number. … I found out it was a friend of my former best friend. The fact she had other people trying to bully me just says so much about her character.”
Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said the judicial code at FSU has policies that “prohibit harassment, threats and acts that are disruptive in nature.” She said, “Cyber bullying could fall into all of these categories.”
Shannon Jay, a junior business major, said, “With how technology is now, it makes it so easy for someone to hide behind a screen and act tough. It just shows how much of a coward someone is when they do this. They have no problem typing it out and sending it, but they would never say it to someone’s face.”
Stoops said, “There has been an increase in the use of electronic communication to do this,” [cyber bullying]. Students communicate more and more via electronic means, so it makes sense that negative behaviors would carry over to those avenues.”
A Twitter account that was specifically made for FSU, @FSU_Confessions, features students who send in anonymous confessions about themselves or their peers on campus. Some students’ names are mentioned in the confessions, and are even tagged with their Twitter name, which will bring you to their page when clicked on.
Mark Hayes, a sophomore business major, said, “Someone has way too much time on their hands if they have a Twitter account specifically made for something like this.”
Another Twitter account, @FSUCRUSHES, allows students to submit their campus crush anonymously. The name of their crush appears on the Twitter feed.
Jessica Hogan, a sophomore math major, said, “I had never heard of it until earlier this semester. It’s kind of degrading some of the things that are said about the names that are exposed. I don’t really see a point in it if you are remaining anonymous.”
Mary Welch, a sophomore math major, agreed with Hogan saying, “I thought we were out of middle school and were at the point where if we wanted to approach someone, we would do it and not hide behind a Twitter account.”
Director of the Counseling Center Paul Welch said, “Some students that come in [to the Health Center] will share any messages they have received.” When this happens, “We will simply suggest they tell the person to, ‘stop bullying me,’ and if the bullying continues, the perpetrator will be reported to police.”
One FSU student, who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “I received several [Facebook] messages from people on campus. I’m dating a transgender man and I’m so proud of how far he has come through this whole thing. Why wouldn’t I want to share my pride on a public forum?” The student said the messages contained content assuming she was a “lesbian,” “dyke” and used other derogatory terms regarding her boyfriend.
The student received these messages every time she would update her Facebook status regarding her boyfriend. “I never thought I would be bullied for being proud of someone. I ended up deleting my Facebook as did my boyfriend. He doesn’t even attend Framingham State and he was receiving messages from the same people I was. … The funny thing was that the people sending the messages couldn’t even write it on my status. I guess they had to send me a private message because they were too scared to have what they thought out in the public.”
After a week of messages coming in, the student started feeling depressed and angry. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around why people wanted to intentionally hurt someone, especially someone who had never done anything to harm them.”
When cyber bullying takes place on campus, Welch said, “We encourage the person to file a report with the Dean’s office or Campus Police.”
Stoops said when something is reported, “They [university police] will ask to see the communication in which the reported bullying has occurred.” She said if a student is cyber bullied, they should save the emails, texts and tweets “so the police can see and document this.”
After the police investigate the alleged bullying, they will take “appropriate action,” said Stoops. “[This] could include filing judicial charges, which would lead to Judicial Affairs also becoming involved.”
An FSU student, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he took the text messages he had received to Campus Police. “I’m openly gay, so I guess that means I’m a perfect target for being harassed.”
The student said he had received texts for a majority of the spring semester in 2012. “I just played it off because it was nothing I hadn’t heard before.” The messages became worse just weeks before finals.
“The people texting me started saying extremely inappropriate things about my personal life. They started bringing my boyfriend into it, and even my best friend, who isn’t gay.”
“My best friend and I were in my dorm watching the Red Sox and someone taped a note to my door that said I better put a rubber band on the doorknob so people know not to bother us,” the student continued, “ I didn’t know that was a real thing. The only time I saw that was on ‘Boy Meets World.’”
The student was able to make light of the situation and not let the note bother him. “I went along with it and put a rubber band on the doorknob. They stopped bullying me after that.”
Another FSU student was bullied to the point where she had to leave campus for a semester.
“I was getting [Facebook] messages and direct messages on Twitter about the way I dress. I guess because it’s not what’s seen as ‘normal,’ that meant I was allowed to be bullied.”
The messages continued for weeks. “I responded to a few. All I said was that I never once said something about the way they dress, so they shouldn’t be saying negative things about the way I do. It’s how I express myself.”
The student continued saying, “I like eccentric clothing. I like bright colors and patterns. I never saw a problem with it, but I guess other people did.”
The bullying began to have negative effects on the student. “I stopped going to class and stopped seeing my friends. One morning I just called my mom and told her to come get me because I couldn’t be here anymore. I didn’t come back to FSU for that year.”
Even with the policy at FSU that prohibits harassment, the student didn’t want to pursue disciplinary action. “I just wanted to be out of here at that point. I didn’t want to be at school anymore. When I was home I had to see a therapist because it got to me so bad. I was prescribed anti-depressants.”
After taking a semester off, the student decided to come back to FSU. “I came back last semester and haven’t been bullied. … “I feel happy and like myself again. My wardrobe is the same. I didn’t want to change who I was because bullies didn’t like it. I like who I am.”
Welch said, “Victims of cyber bullying may feel sad, frustrated, angry, isolated and/or powerless. [Their] self-esteem may be affected,” and it can add to “other vulnerabilities like depression, social anxiety or thoughts of suicide.”
He continued, regarding the psychological effects of cyber bullying, that, “Some people may fear for their safety offline due to the threats that are conveyed online.”
The student said, “I felt alone on campus. I had friends here, but I didn’t want to talk about what had happened. I felt like I couldn’t do anything anyway and they wouldn’t understand.”
Each FSU student who was interviewed by the Gatepost said he or she never feared their safety outside of social media was in danger. “I really didn’t think anyone who actually said anything online would say anything to my face,” one student said. “That’s how bullies are, all tough and mighty on Facebook. But as soon as you see them face-to-face, they won’t even make eye contact with you.”
At FSU, plenty of help is available around campus if someone is being cyber bullied. Welch said, “Anyone that has been the victim of cyber bullying is welcome to come to the Counseling Center for support. All of our counselors can assist in this area.”
Stoops said there is information available to students related to harassment and threats that are used to educate the community in different contexts.
She said, “There has been an increase in the attention paid to bullying over the past 15 years and I think the more we are aware of it and take steps to prevent it, the better.” She also encouraged students to “Send the message to other students that this behavior is not okay and won’t be tolerated.”
Stoops, as well as the students who had been cyber bullied, want students on campus to get involved to help raise awareness that cyber bullying is not something that should be ignored.
One FSU student, who was cyber bullied, said “If someone you know is being bullied, help them. Sometimes they don’t want to ask for help. Take it into your own hands. If someone had done that for me, I would have been so grateful.”
Nick Stevens, a sophomore business major, said, “I have no problem reporting anything that has to do with bullying. We’re in college now, this shouldn’t be a problem.”
An FSU student who was cyber bullied said, “I’m extremely thankful for the help the Counseling Center gave me. If I hadn’t gone to them when I did, I have no idea how much further the messages could have gone, or what it could have done to me. It’s so important to get help if someone ever goes through this.