Recently, I met my friends from school and we got talking about how the extensive use of internet has affected us all. As it turns out, the ancient good and bad argument extends to the modern internet as well. While most of us agreed that it makes the dissemination of knowledge easier, eases out being in touch with friends, and even helps some of us lucky ones find love, the internet can also be a dark, dark place.
"I remember this one time someone made a fake profile with my name and kept sending indecent messages to my friends, relatives and even acquaintances. Some of them still think I did it and don't even speak to me."
"Back in senior school, someone made a meme about how chubby I am. I hated going to school after that. People would laugh the moment they looked at me. I still feel guilty when I eat too much."
"I dumped my first boyfriend after college ended. He threatened me, saying that he'll send private photos I shared with him if I don't take him back. When I refused, he actually did it. I'm scared someone, somewhere will recognise me. I live with that fear everyday."
"A classmate of mine told everyone I had sex with him and people started posting vulgar messages on my timeline. A new message asking me how I like it or my rate made me get off social media. It was a hellish experience."
This is what cyber bullying looks like.
To define it simply, it is the use of electronic devices like cellphones, laptops, computers and tablets, along with communication tools like apps, chats and websites to defame, intimidate or target someone.
To be a little more specific, cyber bullying includes:
- Posting hurtful or vulgar comments on someone's social media profile
- Sending inappropriate online messages to someone
- Posting photos or videos of someone that will be defamatory
- Sending blackmailing messages online to someone
- Threats that are violent in nature, including rape and death threats
- Posting sexually explicit photos or videos of someone without their permission
- Taking and posting photos or videos of someone without their knowledge
Here's what you can do if you're getting bullied online:
Your first step is to save evidence.
The messages, photos, videos or any posts against you need to be saved in the form of screenshots. The good part here is that you can collect your own evidence and make a case for yourself.
Block the person harassing you.
There can be times that the person harassing you is actually someone you know. However, don't sacrifice your mental and emotional health for any personal relationship that is toxic. There is an option where you can block any person with immediate effect on all social media apps. Make use of it when you have to.
Do not feed the trolls.
You are not obligated to reply to anyone targeting or intimidating you. Avoid replying to inappropriate or hateful messages but keep saving the messages you get as evidence.
You can also take legal action.
You can register an FIR or go to the cyber cell in your city. And now, you can even submit a complaint online. Use the platform that your bullies use to punish them. Visit www.cybercrimehelpline.com to lodge an online complaint. The site also contains addresses and phone numbers of cyber cells in different cities which can be helpful.
Precaution is better than cure.
Keep your online profiles on all social media platforms protected with privacy settings. Very few of us review our privacy settings but it is extremely important to do so from time to time. Keep a track of who can look at which post.
In a world where our social media profiles are becoming our identity, we need to treat our accounts just like our bank details. They're to be kept safe and passwords are not to be shared. All we require is a little vigilance.
Talk about it.
Anyone who has been bullied will tell you about how the experience can affect their life in the most negative way. So many people have slipped into depression and had suicidal thoughts solely because another person won't stop intimidating them. The emotional turmoil, low self-esteem and self-hatred is something no one deserves to go through.
Social media only gives these bullies a wider space to operate and hurt more people. When you're online, you can't escape your bully. They're tailing you every minute, every second. The damage they can do to you online is actually much greater than what they can do in real life.
There are reputations and mental health at stake. It isn't all right to bully anyone and it is also not all right to take the bullying lying down. Today they target you and tomorrow it could be one of your loved ones. Don't encourage this and start taking a stand for yourself.
Don't be scared to raise your voice against those who bully you. Let them know that you will use their tools to punish them.