The Oracle

Bully ratches up insults to provoke bystander action

The Oracle

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by Samantha Donat:

When I at first agreed to be a part of this social experiment, I had thought I would be executing a rather simple task: being a bully.  It sounds simple enough, right?  Wrong.  What I had thought would be a simple exchange of a few slanderous words turned into an experience that I will, honestly, probably carry with me for the rest of my life.

My biggest obstacle at first appeared to be formulating how I would respond to a confrontation.  I don’t consider myself to be a particularly mean person, so dealing with a one-on-one confrontation sounded absolutely terrifying to me.  As we began the first trial of the experiment and the hateful words began to roll off my tongue, I found myself praying that no one would say anything, hoping that I wouldn’t have to talk back to anyone who questioned my actions. As the minutes of bullying wore on and I began to run out of mean things to say, I found myself looking around, almost confused.  Not one of the (at least) fifteen people who had overheard my bullying had even blinked an eye. Were all of these people seriously going to let me get away with this?  In a last-ditch attempt at provoking someone, I loudly and clearly said, “You’re a pathetic excuse for a human being,” as an adult walked by.  He looked straight at me, his footsteps slowing for a fraction of a second.  He then sped up again and continued on his way.

The next two experiments went similarly—I was loud, I was mean and I was positive that people were hearing the nasty things I was saying.  And no one retaliated in any way, shape or form.  But finally, during, the fourth trial of the experiment, I heard a group of students in the AC whispering and looking at me.  Hoping that someone would react, I kept up my string of insults, and suddenly someone called out my name.  “Sam, what do you think you’re doing?”  I immediately froze and felt all the blood in my body rush to my face. I attempted to continue on with my act, trying to remain in character, but after hearing the student call me out, my “confidence” in my bullying was smashed, and all I really wanted to do was hug her in gratitude for not letting me get away with it for any longer.

The fifth trial proved to be just as successful, and although the confrontation was just as uncomfortable for me, it was even more of a relief to see that another person was going to stop my behavior.  I like to tell myself that all of the people who heard my bullying and didn’t stand up really did just think it was a “joke,” but even then, I was astonished at the number of people who decided to let the bullying run its course.

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Bully ratches up insults to provoke bystander action