Privacy, Footprints, and Cyberbullying

I went dark for a few days earlier this summer — unsure of whether or not that was the right thing to do. Here was my dilemma:

It had come to my attention that my digital identity had been reworked and redistributed for an audience of people I barely know via manipulated screenshots, spliced email correspondences, and false representations of my words, politics, and intentions. As a colleague put it, I had officially been cyberbullied.

This isn’t the first time my identity has been stolen or manipulated, nor is it the first time it has caused unnecessary waves in my personal life. (And something tells me it won’t be the last.) But after considering my options (most of which would include drastically reducing my digital footprint), I concluded that I shouldn’t change anything about how I tweet, blog, or communicate. As an instructional technology educator, academic researcher of blogs, and fiber artist who relies heavily on digital media and communication to share my ideas and work, I can’t — and more importantly, shouldn’t — hide from cyberbullies/stalkers/harassers.

Alhough people who have been the target of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, or cyberharassment have little legal recourse (it turns out that very few states have laws in effect to address digital forms of harassment), I was glad to hear of landmark legislation that went into effect on July 1st. The Dignity for All Students Act addresses bullying and harassment at the K-12 level on school grounds in New York State, and is an important step in acknowledging the fact that bullying, stalking, harassment, and violations of privacy — whether digitally or in real-time — are not to be tolerated in any form.

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.