Jadehawk has a useful post about what psychology considers harassment. Just imagine: there is research. It’s possible to find out what harassment does to people.
Because certain entities on the web feel like redefining all forms of internet harassment and threat as “trolling” just because it happens online or via unusual media, I decided to look at what actually qualifies as harassment in psychology (rather than in law, since we’re talking about whether it affects people, not whether it’s illegal).
Wait, let me guess first – it doesn’t affect people at all unless they’re Professional Victims or Drama Queens or Special Snowflakes. Right?
For subjects in the Harassment condition, the procedure for the ﬁrst four TAT cards was identical to that just described for subjects in the Nonharassment condition. Before the ﬁfth card, however, the experimenter said that the last four stories had been “somewhat boring,” and that the subject should try harder to make the next few stories interesting. After the ﬁfth card, the experimenter said “you still do not have it right.” After the sixth and seventh cards, the experimenter again indicated that the stories were inadequate, and said “I cannot see what the problem is,” and that “you should make some effort” to improve them. During the eighth story, the experimenter interrupted the subject with a critical comment.
Result? Physical effects. Read Jadehawk’s post to see what effects.
Conclusion: Even mild interruption, ridicule, and criticism elicits stress responses, and all these mild stress-response-elicitors count as harassment in psychology. That doesn’t mean we should stop criticizing people, and it doesn’t mean that people who want to be skeptics, scientists and/or activists don’t need to learn to deal with a certain degree of both criticism and “trolling”. However, as with microaggressions, a constant barrage of aggression (some low-grade some decidedly less so) is typically more wearying/damaging than the occasional blatant, massive outburst. Consequently, telling a person who’s subjected for months to non-stop criticism, “satire”, parody, “trolling”, and plain old “as defined by every college campus everywhere” harassment* on multiple fronts that they aren’t being harassed is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Even the thickest skin will eventually be worn down** my months, or even years, of this sort of thing.
What this means in effect is that even harassment that doesn’t quite live up to persecutable legal standards*** still causes harm to people. Real, measurable harm.
Is interesting. Thanks to TL for the link.