Cyberbullying is one of the most prominent mental health issues facing young people all over the world. Scientific studies repeatedly demonstrate that teens are the highest risk demographic for cyberbullying, and that this online bullying can have disastrous side effects. Teens and children who are bullied online frequently suffer from self-harm, depression, and even suicide. Some researchers are calling cyberbullying the biggest mental health epidemic of the 21st century. Older men and women are not immune to the effects of cyberbullying; bullies frequently target disabled folks on the internet.
Is there any platform that researchers consider safe from cyberbullying? The answer: probably not. Joel Poe spent years as a singer, actor, and songwriter. Lately, his biggest project has been working with teens to amplify his distinctly anti-bullying message to people all over the world. In a recent interview, he explained that his favorite social media platform has always been Tumblr, which is a source of nostalgic fun for millions who enjoyed the site at the height of its popularity.
However, Tumblr was never a safe haven from the cyberbullying rampant everywhere on the internet. Tumblr frequently faced controversy when users participated in harrassment, excessive bullying, and even doxxing incidents. Tumblr always presented itself as a bastion of inclusion. The platform’s content varied widely. Poe believed that Tumblr allowed users from all walks of life to share ”music, poetry, and art” with one another. But right underneath this quaint persona was a sea of deeply toxic subcultures that made the website considerably less welcoming for many underage users.
In 2021, the same problems have persisted, albeit under different names and on different platforms. In the age of TikTok’s dominance, cyberbullies have a whole host of tools at their disposal to mock and demean users. “Duets” are one way that bullies make fun of those who are caught in embarrassing situations on TikTok. Comment sections are sometimes filled with mocking results, reinforcing a dangerous kind of mob mentality among users.
Joel Poe will likely continue to be an activist against cyberbullying for the foreseeable future. Some notable researchers argue that a distinct lack of accountability on TikTok and other media platforms is a contributing factor to the epidemic of bullying. Cyberbullying is almost always prohibited in the terms of service on these websites, but this does little to deter bullies, and the rules are seldom actually enforced.
It has never been more important for activists with a platform like Joel Poe to use their voice to fight the epidemic of cyberbullying. Bullying is more than just an inconvenience. Children and teens in 2021 are glued to their phones, and the self-esteem of young men and women is reliant on how the internet perceives them. This turns the cyberbullying problem from a minor annoyance into a deadly risk for teens. While Joel Poe is nostalgic for old platforms like Tumblr, he also understands that cyberbullying is an age-old problem that isn’t going away any time soon. With the help of activists like himself, maybe the internet will one day become a safe place for everyone.