The internet has created a brave new world, as Aldus Huxley might have seen it. A negative utopia with both the power to make us better and worse. It is both an awe-inspiring tool and a destructive weapon, and there are few things more harmful than the use of social media for cyberbullying and blind rumors.

Bullying through social media doesn’t stop in the summertime when classes are out. In fact, having more free time often increases cyber-bullying and spins up rumor mills. Anyone can quickly find themselves in the middle of juicy gossip, either on the receiving end or by unwittingly spreading someone else’s destructive crusade.

So how do we protect ourselves, our friends, our kids, our students, and others? It’s not enough to avoid using social media as a weapon ourselves, we need to prevent others from using us as a reposting weapon as well.

We all know what it’s like being on the receiving end, so don’t be someone else’s weapon, and don’t tolerate the hate.

Before spreading hate-speech or rumors as truth, be willing to separate the truth from destruction. Fact-check; find the truth. The person spreading a rumor is often counting on you to not fact-check or question them. By then the damage is done, leaving scars or worse. If the call to action is blind acceptance, you’re in the wrong crowd.

In her blog Hasty Words, Darla Halyk put it well, “I know that we can’t stop gossip, but we can stop the hate. We can stop harmful rumors when we hear them. We have to be responsible for our actions. We need to know if we are speaking the truth or repeating a lie. We need to be better; we should know the facts, before spreading the word.”

Remember, if it sounds sensational or intentionally harmful, then you’re likely being roped into someone’s crusade to damage, bully, or intimidate. It happens at all ages, but we’re better than the hate; you’re better than the hate. We all know what it’s like being on the receiving end, so don’t be someone else’s weapon, and don’t tolerate the hate.

The Psychology of Rumors: 6 Reasons Why Rumors Spread

StopBullying.gov