01/13/2016 05:49 EST | Updated 01/13/2017 05:12 EST

The Online World Isn't Always Nice And Can Be Quite Nasty

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Dislike computer key

Social media has opened our world and changed our lives. From having "Facebook friends," we have never met to instant messages and receiving the news almost before it happens is amazing! Social media may be fun, serve as advertising and assist with job searches. But the online world is not always nice and may be quite nasty.

Enter cyberbullying a common occurrence not limited to adolescents. More adults report cyberbullying than adolescents according to an organization aimed at providing advice for targets of cyberbullying.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, cyberbullying has been experienced by 40 per cent of adults. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

The most common types of cyberbullying are being called offensive names and purposeful embarrassment. Other forms include physical threats, harassment, stalking and sexually harassment. Men are more inclined to be called names, embarrassed or threatened, but women are more prone to being stalked and/or sexually harassed.

The online death threats of Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley underscore the reality that no one is immune to adult cyberbullying. This cryptic behaviour may be a violation of Section 264.1 of the criminal code, which states "the utterance of serious threats with an intention to intimate is an actionable offense."

This online rhetoric in response to new legislation in a democracy is dangerous, destructive and daunting. The societal impact of radical individuals to make death threats at the click of a mouse cannot be overstated.

The emotional toll faced by adult targets of cyberbullying directly correlates with the degree of abuse. If one faces criticism about Facebook posts, the damage to emotional health will be minimal. If a person is being threatened or sexually harassed they may experience fear, weight loss, insomnia and/or a decrease in appetite. You may find yourself looking over your shoulder. About 40 per cent of people who have been cyberbullied did not know the identity of the cyberbully, according to the American Trends Panel Survey 2014.

So how does one deal with cyberbullying? Calmly ask the cyberbully to stop. If cyberbullying persists, you may need to contact your local law enforcement agency to investigate the threats and determine validity.

It is important to keep evidence of cyberbullying like online messages, comments or posts especially if the cyberbullying has had a negative impact on your health, safety, and/or job and you need to retain the services of a lawyer who specializes in harassment.

If someone you know becomes upset after receiving emails, messages or texts or secretive about their online activities, they may be experiencing cyberbullying. You can help targets of cyberbullying by refusing to share nasty posts. Send a note to the target stating your disapproval of the cyberbullying happening to them. You may want to respond to a post with neutral language stating, "I am unfollowing this hurtful post and would appreciate it if others followed suit." Check up on your friend or colleague to ensure they are doing ok and are safe.

It is difficult to hold cyberbullies accountable for their actions. So be careful on there, online that is. If you become a target of a cyberbully or know someone who is, the sooner you deal with it the better. Cyberbullies are cowards and want your light for their darkness. Do tell someone you trust, take care of yourself and seek professional advice.

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