As technology gets more entangled with our social presence, cyberbullying is becoming a great concern for social media users.
Last year Hanan Hamid, a 21-year old girl from the south-Indian state Kerala, faced severe online abuse after images of her selling fish in college uniform went viral in a local newspaper. While well-wishers came out in support of her for struggle to survive by doing various jobs like taking tuitions, doing odd jobs like dubbing, standing as flower girl at events, anchoring, acting in small roles to selling fish to support her family, a section of the society called it ‘fake’ and trolled her mercilessly. Eventually, the Kerala government came forward in her support and the police arrested the perpetrators.
While social media has been a very useful platform for connecting with people, exchanging ideas and even for showcasing talents, it also has a darker side to it. A recent survey conducted in 28 countries by the UK-based consumer tech review firm Comparitech, India recorded the highest rate of children falling victim to cyberbullying in 2018. This rate has accelerated with over 37 pc of parents admitting that their children have become victims at least once, which is 15 pc more than in 2016.
“Indian parents remained among the highest to express confidence that their children were cyberbullied at least sometimes, a number that only grew from 2011 to 2018,” the report said.
Dipannita Das, a 20 year old student from Kolkata shared with Media India Group her experiences of cyberbullying. She recently unfriended nearly 10 of her Facebook friends in last two months. On being asked about the reason, she said, “it was just to remove the people negatively affecting me. I am a fan of K-drama and K-pop which many of my friends don’t understand. While few of them are supportive of my likes and dislikes, others took up to teasing which tended to get racist and insulting. So, I just thought about myself and decided to remove them at least from Facebook.” She has also cleared out a few people from her Instagram account.
What is cyberbullying?
According to experts, cyberbullying is the intentional use of hateful comments on online platforms to humiliate or put another person down. It mostly includes posting, sending or sharing negative or false information about another person which is mostly insulting and degrading for the person’s character.
The increase in the use of social networking sites has made the lives of the people virtual where they base their confidence on the “likes” and “hearts” on their posts. Similarly, the criticism faced on these posts also affects their self-esteem. As the report suggested that Facebook as a platform is much more open to bullying followed by Twitter.
Given the nature of social media, the hurtful comments go viral in moments and even follow the victim forever. It makes the victim feel helpless and even leads to depression and anxiety. In some cases they even develop suicidal tendencies.
Another aspect of the issue is the bullies and why do they resort to it? While few of the bullies do it out of jealousy or with the idea of revenge, a few feel powerful by disgracing someone. Moreover, the anonymity in the internet space also gives them the leeway to disregard the consequences of their actions.
The Saudi Arabian social networking site Sarahah or another similar site Stulish were originally developed for providing constructive feedback or criticism while remaining anonymous. But the cloak of anonymity gave rise to a wave of derogatory and nasty comments on the profiles which lead to a lot of people feeling disturbed while many removed themselves from the platforms.
Trolling-a form of cyberbullying is becoming more common nowadays as a troll starts quarrels or upsets people with their off-colour comments and provoke others to react emotionally, thus creating a complete tangential discussion for their own amusement. Celebrities and public figures are the most common recipients of these attacks.
How to fight cyberbullying?
The most important measure to be taken is to make people aware of cyberbulling and its affects. People also need to be sensitised about the consequences and be made aware about the legal procedures and support for fighting the issue. Even parents need to be aware and more involved with their children, as they have an easy relationship and kids will be more comfortable while sharing their problems with them. This will not only help the victims but also the ones who are pursuing the act.
The fight against cyberbullying has attained momentum in India as the present generation is more knowledgeable about the issue. The rate of reporting against offensive posts or comments online has increased, along with people taking steps to cut out such offenders from their accounts. Another great step is the openness in talking about mental health which provides people the support to ask for help.