Combating weight-based cyberbullying on Facebook with the dissenter effect

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014 May;17(5):281-6. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2013.0370. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Weight-based cyberbullying is prevalent among youth and adolescents and can have lasting negative psychological effects on the victims. One way to combat these negative effects is through modeling dissenting behavior. When a bystander challenges the bully or supports the victim, this models dissenting behavior. In this study, 181 participants were exposed to message manipulations posted on a Facebook page aimed at testing the conformity effect, the dissenter effect, and the bystander effect in response to enactment of weight-based bullying. Facebook is a common social media site where cyberbullying is reported. Results indicate that in the dissenting condition, participants' comments were significantly more positive or supporting for the victim, as compared to other conditions. This effect was more pronounced for men than for women. In addition, in the dissenting condition, men were less likely to consider the victim unhealthy than women and men in other conditions. These results support the effectiveness of efforts to model dissenting behavior in the face of bullies and extend them to online contexts. Implications are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight*
  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Media*
  • Young Adult