Cyberbullying Digital Research

What Does “Real Life” mean to you?

46% of people we surveyed think “real life” only means things that happen offline

In 2017, we released the Annual Bullying Survey which looks at the impact bullying has on people aged 12-25 in the UK. The research looked into the online lives of people who took part in the survey and revealed that the majority of people believe ‘real life’ only counts as things that take place offline. What this study showed was that there are increasing amounts of people believing that what they say and do online aren’t having real-life effects.


Let’s break it down a bit… you would never tell someone you think they’re ‘ugly’ in a real-life setting because you wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings. But with 46% of people believing that real life doesn’t extend to online spaces, we’re seeing people say and do things online because they think it doesn’t have a real impact. It’s just too easy to forget that there’s a person operating a keyboard, behind a screen who has real-life feelings, just like everybody else.

Online vs Real Life

The assumption that online interaction is not ‘real life’ is why lots of people think its ok to be abusive on social media and other platforms such as online games. Too often, we’re seeing people say “It happened online, not in real life” meaning an insult doesn’t carry as much weight as it would if it was said out loud. Not to mention the increase in ‘troll’ accounts and profiles created solely for the purpose of abusing other people online.

The fact is, 41% of people go on to develop social anxiety IRL, as a result of online bullying. 37% of people who experienced cyberbullying in the last year experienced depression and 26% had suicidal thoughts. This is proof that things which take place online, have very real effects that carry over into life offline and have the potential to seriously affect our mental health.

Here are some shady online behaviours the people who we surveyed admitted to taking part in, we’re willing to bet that most people wouldn’t do these things IRL:




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If you’re experiencing cyberbullying or online abuse, we can help. You can speak directly to a digital mentor or the phone, over email or through our support community: