One of the things some people are wondering about the Phoebe Prince case is where her friends were in all of this. The papers mention that she had some. Why didn’t they stick up for her? Do something for her?
This, to me, misunderstands the Third Dynamic of Unpopularity: When you’re unpopular, even your friends don’t have your back in any meaningful sense.
There was an unspoken rule among my friends that if one of us being targeted by Bully X, the main concern of the other friends is to try to stay as invisible as possible. It sounds cold, I know. But by and large it’s the only reasonable course of action. Standing up for your friend does not help them. Even taking the bullet meant for him doesn’t mean anything when they’ve got a loaded gun. They’ll get back to them as soon as they’re done with you.
I think I objected to this ethos at first. Why the hell was my friend just sitting there while this bully was being so mean to me? It wasn’t until the situations were reversed that I realized why. Just because I was getting crap did not mean that he needed to be getting it, too. Besides, he was getting it from people that didn’t know me. As his friend, the maximum preservation of his invisibility (at less cost to me than the alternative would be to him) was a generous act on my part.
Other than directly standing up to bullies, the main alternative would be to alert someone who can do something. That still contains the same drawbacks as personal involvement if they find out who tattled. Plus, before the administrator can do anything, they would need to talk to the victim of the bullying. That puts them on the spot. Either they say nothing and the issue dies (except that you’ve exposed yourself to the liability of Bully X finding out) or they say something and it’s just the same as if they went to the administration themselves. That enlarges the target on their back and if that’s what they had wanted to do they would have done it their own dang selves. All you did was remove the choice. Yes, they have the choice of saying nothing, but they could still be liable if Bully X finds out that they were even talking to administrator just to lie and deny that bullying was taken place.
Bullies are not reasonable. They are not typically justified in doing what they do. They don’t respect alliances between outcasts. If you fight back, they don’t care 1/100 as much as you do that you will both get suspended. They don’t care if you didn’t actually do what they think you mighta done. Once they notice you and decide who you are to them (a target), that’s all she wrote. The only way I ever found out of it is rank bribery and that only works with some.