Social Bashing

When Social Media Becomes Abusive

Bashing describes verbal abuse and harsh public criticism. Combined with the term social, it refers to accusatory or abusive verbal attacks via social media activities. This phenomenon is often referred to as cyber mobbing and is a form of cyber bullying. Social bashing usually happens in an online public arena.

Social Bashing

Forms of Social Bashing

Social bashing usually involves insults that are created by a number of negative posts or comments often by several different people. This bashing often occurs on social media platforms, forums, and networks. Another format is to take a person’s content on social media and repost it with abuse added onto it. Additionally, some bashers will encourage people to falsely report the victim’s account and/or posts in an attempt to remove them. These actions are not just the actions of people frustrated with a company. On the contrary, they are specifically aiming to abuse and upset individuals. This can come in the form of prejudicial comments, racist attacks, threats of violence, online stalking and more.

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Celebrity Social Bashing

Often in the public eye, celebrities are not immune to social bashing. In fact, they can sometimes get some of the strongest abuse. Sadly, these comments aren’t simple criticism or venting of emotions, they are direct, personal attacks that can be extremely damaging and dangerous. Tragically, in 2020 UK presenter Caroline Flack took her own life after repeated online bashing. Shockingly, some of it was done by several media outlets leading to the introduction of a law that makes it a crime for the British media to bully and harrass anyone. Thankfully, most online bashing of individuals is short lived and the victim can block the bashers or remove themselves from a situation.

Why Does it Happen?

Most of the population would never even consider acting like this online, making us wonder why some think it’s okay. There are many reasons we are seeing this kind of behaviour increase online:


In general, when online it’s very easy to hide who you are. Most social media platforms and forums don’t require you to prove who you are in order to use the platform. Therefore, people use aliases and fake information to hide their true identity. Additionally, many use VPNs to hide or spoof their IP address so even the country they’re in is unknown. The perpetrators know their actions won’t be taken seriously by law enforcement in most cases and reporting can take a long time to be actioned. Therefore, they know that their actions will have little to no consequences.

Poor Behaviour

Social bashing may be performed by someone who simply doesn’t know how to behave. Sometimes, this can be younger people, those with few morals, or those who have limited capacity of understanding or empathy. This can be caused by many things but is often attributed to a poor or difficult upbringing. Alternatively, the person may have physical or mental health issues that cause them to lash out or have low self esteem. Therefore, by belittling someone online, it may make them momentarily feel better.

Mob Mentality

It could be that someone doesn’t intend to bash someone online, yet they are caught up in it. For example, someone may watch a situation unfold and feel that if other people are acting this way then they will too. It’s as if they feel the actions are now justified. Also, this is known as the “bandwagon effect”. This can be why so many bashing incidents start off with a few abusive replies and end up turning into a huge online mobbing.

Reacting to Social Bashing

For non-celebrity indiviuals, simply removing oneself from a situation or blocking/reporting others can diffuse or stop the situation. However, for companies, they can’t simply just disappear. How a company reacts to this kind of behaviour can play a huge role in how they are seen by others. Reacting emotionally and by being abusive back will make people think the company is as bad as the bashers. Here are some tips for companies:

  • Don’t React Personally
  • Remain Positive
  • Block Harrassers
  • Utilise Report Features
  • Communicate Afterwards
  • When running a company or acting as a social media manager it is easy to become extremely defensive or emotional. Additionally, the company may want to try and explain themselves but get caught up in a back and forth argument. All of this debate online will be seen by others and could damage the company’s reputation. If the company then attempts to delete the posts or some comments, they may be accused of censorship. Of course, if a post or posts made are extremely rude or vulgar then they should indeed be removed.

    Damage Limitation

    As above, it’s best to keep calm, be communicative and address any issues the mob may be complaining about. Being open and honest and handling the issue in a swift and factual manner will make the company look professional. Also, some people try to cause havoc online simply to get a reaction or provoke some kind of emotional response. By not reacting in that manner, the abusive poster(s) will hopefully get bored and not try to start bashing the company again.

    Similar Situations

    Employer Shaming

    Occasionally, this kind of shaming can be justified such as in cases where workers have been exploited or mistreated. However, some workers will try to bash their ex-employer’s company as retaliation. This could be because they were fired, had a personal grudge, or they just want to cause problems. With the rise of sites like Glassdoor and Trustpilot reviews can and are left by these disgruntled workers. Thankfully, these sites often have screening for comments and will remove anything that’s too personal or is reported and proven by the company to be false. Unfortunately, social media isn’t always as quick to act and social bashing can make an employer look bad through no fault of their own.

    Cancel Culture

    The term was created in the late 2010s and refers to a culture where a person or organisation is shunned, often publicly, because others feel they have acted in an unacceptable way. The most high-profile cases will usually involve celebrities or very popular organistions. Some say it gives a voice to the general public whilst others feel that this public form of shaming isn’t productive and can be harmful. This is especially true if action is being taken based on heresay or rumours that could turn out to be false. This is not the same as call out culture where groups of usually marginalised people speak out. An example of this was the “MeToo” movement.