This past Friday, my mother called and told me about something in her local newspaper about adults who were bullied as children encountering their former bullies on social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. As this is something I am dealing with in my own life right now, I really wanted to see this and did a search online. Its not only me but other adult survivors of peer abuse are facing this on these sites. I have had several tell me about this. One became so upset all over again that it was a shock to the system. Another set up a cause page and encouraged former bullies to donate to the bullying cause. One saw the friend request, wrote the bully back and let them know what they did and how it affected them. The bully wrote back, sent scathing messages over and over and took absolutely no responsibility for their actions. The only way the person got them to stop was by blocking them.
There are many adults out there who were abused by their peers as children and are on these sites. There is a feature for reconnecting with old friends from school and work so if you list these schools or former places of employment on your profile, with one click they can easily look and get a blast from the past so to speak. This abuse for some was mild and would be isolated events. Overcoming it was not a problem for them and probably resolved these issues with their bully before entering adulthood. Or, some may remember this, can remember it in a bad light and how it affected them but not really think much about it. So, letting bygones be bygones was not such a big thing and went ahead and accepted these tormentors on their pages. After all, life is too short, right? Yet what about those who were fed this abuse in strong doses and it affected them psychologically? The scars are there and may be there for the remainder of their lives. A daily cocktail of anti-depressants is what keeps them sane. So, they come on these social sites and see that one of the people that added to this damage is sending a friend request? What about these survivors? How do they handle this problem?
Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post gave some great advice. True, these bullies may have reformed and are different now. We don’t know whether this has happened or not. They may want to make amends or apologize. This could be a way of setting the record straight. There are some positives to this. However, those who are severe cases may find this too upsetting. A friend request is sent. No message or even “hello, how are you” in the request. The bully sends a request and behaves as if nothing ever happened. How does one deal with this? Here is what I can suggest. First off, it is basically up to the person and the severity of the abuse. We must forgive these tormenters as hard as it is. If we want to be forgiven we must forgive others. However, this does not mean we have to become friends on social sites and welcome them with open arms into our lives. One does not know if this person has changed or not and taking that risk may be hard. I do know that by them sending these requests and behaving as if nothing has happened, chances are they are still bullies. Folks, hard core bullies do not grow up but grow worse. Many are narcissistic and pathological. Those who run in and out of our lives, hurt us to the core and always come back like nothing ever happened are those who more than likely lack having a conscience. Those with a conscience are going to be remorseful in what happened and will tell you so right off the bat. It is a matter of reading between the lines here.
Basically, its up to the person and if they are ready to do this or not. I do know some are not ready and that’s okay. One went into shock at seeing these people on there. It is upsetting to see these people and if it is too upsetting, that person needs to block these people. You wish them well and forgive them but block them until ready to do otherwise. They are no longer a part of your life and why add any pain to it? Not only block them if upsetting but observe their behavior through mutual friends on the site. See if they are exclusive in who they will accept as friends or not. Are they seeking attention in some way or minding their own business? Bullies love to be in charge and in control. Something to consider here. However, if you can add them and not be upset, do so. Again, a lot of this is a matter of the severity of the abuse and whether the person can handle it or not. If you are a survivor with a severe case, don’t do anything to add to the trauma. If you are one who is and can let bygones be bygones, go ahead. Just be careful is all I can say. After all, what happens when a rape victim comes face to face with their rapist? Or, a child faces the parent that abused them and left deep scars? Do we suggest happily ever after in these cases? Something to really think about in all of this.