Cause of Online Trauma: The World of Cancel Campaigns, Cyberbullying, and Cyber Dangers

Trauma is one of the most common human experiences and contributes to a large majority of the mental health conditions in the world. It can cause anxiety, depression, personality disorders, PTSD, stress, and more. However, most trauma addressed by mainstream media is focused on crime, war, and abuse.

Did you know that online occurrences, bullying, and dangers can also cause trauma? Trauma is a severe emotional response to an event that causes intense distress, dissociation, fear, and possible danger. It can be witnessing a death, experiencing an assault, or even being bullied by a large group of people on the internet.

However, don’t fret! Although the internet can be scary, it also contains plenty of help, including online therapy and helpful sites for calming a panic attack.

If you want to learn more about the world of online trauma, read on.

What Constitutes Online Trauma?

A trauma you may have developed or experienced online can be anything that causes you extreme distress, fear, emotional dysregulation, and dissociation. Trauma often causes an initial shock or denial, which is often seen by “spacing out,” feeling like you’re “leaving your body,” or viewing a situation from “above.” But, on the other hand, it can often cause panic attacks and feelings of being watched, unsafe, or wanting not to live anymore.

Anything that causes this reaction in you can be a trauma, even if it’s not a complex or long-lasting one. However, long-term online bullying campaigns often cause long-term trauma and PTSD, which can be difficult to overcome without help.

Here are some hypothetical examples of trauma online.

Joanne’s Example

Joanne is autistic and wears pink fluffy dresses to school every day, even though she is 17. She also likes to bring a stuffed animal to school sometimes. The other teens are “nice” to her in person but take pictures of her from afar to post on social media when she’s not looking. They have created an online group dedicated to bullying her, posting photos, making meaningful comments, and telling her to die.

Joanne sees these comments daily and cries. She feels alone and doesn’t know who to go to. Due to the comments telling her to die, Joanne doesn’t feel like she wants to live anymore and doesn’t understand why people are mean to her.

Mark’s Example

Mark recently posted about an unpopular social cause without much research or thought. Due to this, one of his friends decided he was “violent” and “supports abuse.” The friend had a large social following and created a cancel campaign against Mark, going through his previous posts and breaking them down into small details, trying to use his words against him.

Mark apologized and removed his first post, admitting he didn’t understand it. However, the people continued to state that his apology was false and started to contact his family, send death threats, and post his personal information in online groups. Due to the backlash, he was fired from his job, and Mark started to have panic attacks daily. Due to losing his job, his wife left him, and he had to move into a small apartment in a dangerous part of the city.

Callie’s Example

Callie’s ex-boyfriend was abusive to her. This situation was traumatic, and Callie developed PTSD due to the abuse she suffered. To feel better and start to heal, she blocked her ex online and anyone close to him. Her ex started to lie about her, stating that she assaulted him, and posting out-of-context photos of their conversations, making him look like the good guy and the “victim.”

Callie started to be called an abuser and was hounded daily with reminders of her traumatic relationship, even though she just wanted to be left alone. This online abuse caused her to doubt her trauma and become even more untrusting. Her ex even threatened to take out a restraining order on her!

The Lesson

All these situations might sound outlandish, but they happen to real people daily. Unfortunately, many people feel safer spreading hate and bullying messages online, behind a screen, where they can’t face real-life consequences for hurting someone, and anyone will believe them. That’s why it’s important to understand what online trauma is.

How Does “Canceling” Traumatize Someone?

You may think, “canceling is good! It identifies dangerous people in society!” However, if you look at the case of Mark, and many people in current society, canceling has become a way to simply continue cyberbullying in the form of “social justice” or “protecting a community.”

However, online content can rarely be proven, and any person can make any claim, as we see in Callie’s case. In addition, an abusive person can go online under a false persona and make lots of friends simply to isolate themselves further and hurt their victim.

Even if a claim online is true, isolating a person, causing them to lose their job, threatening them, and saying mean things, can only cause a person to feel hurt, scared, and alone. Taking away someone’s fundamental right to gain money can also cause people to lose their homes and be put in dangerous situations. Even with “proof” that someone has done something, you never know the context or what they may have been going through.

These occurrences can be traumatizing to someone innocent or simply making a small mistake. Unfortunately, in many cases, the people who “cancel” or bully the person in question don’t accept apologies and push the person even further when they try to make amends.

Why Is Cyberbullying Dangerous?

On the same note, cyberbullying can also be dangerous. Humans are social creatures, and we require the love and support of the people in our close circles, whether friends or family. Being an outcast and being laughed at online can feel very hurtful and make people want to isolate themselves.

We can even see in many studies that cyberbullying, and online cancel campaigns increase the likelihood of suicide by almost 15% in any person. In some cases, victims of cyberbullying have been physically assaulted by online bullies and even killed.

That’s why it’s essential to be aware of the actual dangers that online bullying can cause. Just because a person is safe in their home while the bullying occurs doesn’t mean they’re emotionally safe or safe when they leave home.

What Other Dangers Lurk Online?

Outside of the above dangers, other dangers are present online that can cause trauma. These dangers include:

  • Cyberstalking
  • Hacking
  • Doxing
  • Online predators
  • Trafficking
  • Catfishing

Even on popular websites that seem safe, criminals will lurk behind a false profile and lure young children in. For example, on sites like Omegle, which allow you to video chat with strangers, strangers will record videos of young children on the app for fun or manipulate them into doing illegal things.

Even on dating sites, strangers can pretend to be anyone. These occurrences can lead to scary traumas, whether online or in person. For example, many young teens experience online trauma with adult men who prey on them by lying about their age. Some people even get lured away from home.

Catfishing can also cause trauma, especially if someone falls in love with someone and finds out they’re someone else later.

IP addresses and personal information are also relatively easy for hackers to obtain, leading to webcams being spied on or even trafficking of young victims.

Although these crimes are rarer than cyberbullying, it’s important to be aware of the ongoings of the internet so that you can stay safe.

How To Get Help as the Victim of an Online Abusive Campaign or Cyberbullying

If you are the victim of an online abuse campaign or cyberbullying, there is help available. We know it can feel scary and lonely to be in this situation. However, millions of people have gone through the same thing and have come out stronger, building better relationships and learning, which is a real friend.

If your safety is being threatened, you can report cybercrime to your local police department and online. Make sure to block anyone who is continuing to post about you or message you and try to stay away from the things they post. Reading these things will only make you feel worse.

Rely on the people closest to you and consider seeing a trauma-informed therapist. You can even see a therapist online if you’re scared to leave your home.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline today at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7 to talk.

If you have plans to commit suicide, get to your nearest emergency room or call 911 now. Remember, there is always hope around the corner, even in the worst moments, and you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Not everyone who goes through a trauma develops PTSD, but some people do. You could have PTSD or a similar mental health condition if you’re experiencing the following symptoms after your traumatic event/s:

  • Derealization (feeling unreal, feeling that others are unreal, feeling that your environment doesn’t exist)
  • Depersonalization (feeling that you are not in your body or that you aren’t present)
  • Dissociation (feeling “spaced out” or foggy)
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Crying and sadness
  • Reliving the trauma or having flashbacks of what happened
  • Feeling “hypervigilant” or like you’re “looking over your shoulder.”
  • Paranoia
  • Fear of things that remind you of your trauma/avoidance of those things
  • Sensitivity to subjects that remind you of the trauma
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Being unable to calm down
  • Feeling that your trauma is happening again, even when you’re safe

If four or more of these sound like you, talk to a therapist today about the possibility of PTSD or a related trauma disorder.


Online trauma can feel terrifying to go through and is often isolating. If you’ve been through this trauma, get help as soon as possible. To learn more about trauma and what it constitutes, you need to find genuine resources carefully. Remember, there’s always hope, and trusting people again is possible.

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