Dealing with the Monsters Lurking Online

Her mother had knocked the door for a million times now but she had locked herself in the bathroom. Lying still in the bathtub with earphones pouring some deafening music, she had her eyes closed. There were worry lines on her forehead as if she was trying to delete something she shouldn’t have said. Despite the loud music she knew her mother was knocking the door, now anxiously. “What would her state be?”, is all that she could think about in that moment.

Like a dead person with dried tears on the cheek, she mummified herself in the bathrobe and finally opened the door.

Expecting in an obvious storm, she couldn’t understand if her mother’s caress was a storm she wondered or an embankment that could never protect her from a seiche.

Slowly, with a hoarse voice and ringing ears, she said, ‘Mom, I’ve seen the video and the threat on the internet.’

The following days, she tried to gulp her pain but it was certainly difficult to ignore with constant reminders everywhere on the internet. The defaming video was on everyone’s devices and she couldn’t believe how one of her hypocritical classmates was anonymously blackmailing her, leaving nasty comments under her all her social media handles.  They say opportunity finds a way to clear your adversity and she found hers in the form of an essay her teacher had assigned to the class.

She started typing in the words that had puzzled her for the past couple of days-

“Why do cyber bullies hardly ever feel any bit of remorse?”

There it was, the answer to her questions:

Anonymity behind the screens.

Cyber Bullies often work behind personas which allows them to say or do things that they would not do in real life to the person’s face. The use of fake profiles means that they can pick on someone while remaining anonymous.

They think that they’re protected if they use a fake name or account to harass people. This lack of accountability creates an online culture allowing cyberbullying to burgeon. Although, their activity on the internet can still be traced even if their account doesn’t have their real name using their IP address, a lot of people manage to go scot-free.

The consequences are less evident

Cyber bullies don’t get to see the victims’ reactions in real life so this can conceal them from realizing the very real damage or the trauma that they are putting someone else through. This creates a lack of empathy for the other person.

 They fail to understand the long-term effects of their actions on the victim for years to come, especially if they are bullying someone they’ve never met.

as the bullying is often viewed by a wider audience. Bullies can post things online that could haunt a victim for a very long time but they don’t give much thought to it and move to their next prey. This lack of consequences can make it easy to cyberbully someone with little regard for the subsequent fallout. Most victims don’t report these incidents in fear of getting harassed even more.

Many cyberbullies think that bullying others is cool, thinking of it as trolling and find it amusing, especially with support from the internet. This gives them a feeling of being powerful or funny. It has always been about the power- dynamics. The feeling of being stronger or having more control over the other person’s emotions. It gives them satisfaction along with no accountability for their actions. But some people who see and understand this problem still act out so that they don’t become the victim. If they do it, they won’t be bullied. This fear is driving more and more kids to bully others, evade becoming the victim and hence being the new cool. It almost becomes a competition of who can come up with the nasties and snarkiest putdown.

Reading all these articles gave her some perspective but she still felt, “why me?” Was she the only one going through this trauma? She gave it a lot of thought and this made her look up the statistics.

22.4% of the teenagers who use internet for more than 3 hours are a part of cyber bullying and more than 30% of the adolescents using internet are a prey to such pejorative acts of threats, sexts, harassments, blackmails and abuse. The cases have been tremendously increasing since the year 2018 with a rise of 36% and have continued to rise due to unreported crimes.

Cyberstalking is also a part of this heinous issue and majority of the cases prevailing unheard are damaging the quality of human connections and sense of safety in the generation today. It has lived off the extensive use of smart phones and laptops as one never knows how sharing a location on social media leads to stalkers keeping an eye on us.

She still couldn’t foster the thought of how nasty the comments got.

 After reading the statistics and reading multiple accounts of people who were bullied online, she took out her old trusty diary and started penning everything that had been bothering her.

Yes, you’re right, I’m there,

Putting cool-dude verses,

The a, the f, the m, the b,

And some more tasty curses.

You hurl them upon,

But sorry I don’t take ‘em,

I remember you in the head,

Where you planted the ugly mayhem.

As smarter technologies and social media are evolving at the horizon, new challenges are at the threshold. With the so-called revolutionary generation that the urbanization has begot, there are at the high risk of its cons.

She  still wondered if it was only the teenagers who were at the risk of being cyber-bullied and as searched a little more and came across some case studies, she read this tale that kindled a spark in her which was called, “We are some or the other way a part of this.”

“Throughout my life, I was the one who taught kids manners. Amidst the pandemic, no one is as concerned about my students as I am. The paychecks are pending, I have no work at hand, not money to spare and the pulse of my family at hand. Even then, it was me who bought a white board first of all when the principal rang me up for the online classes.

It had never been easy to master the art of facing a class and fearlessly imparted my soul into my subject. Online platform seemed a quest but I got fully fledged to conquer it too. Alas, I’d never imagined I’d be the one with shivering legs, beads of perspiration forming on the temples and a shaky hand who happens to read the absurd comments and abuse in the chatbox of online platform.

For a moment, I wondered if these were the pupils, I had invested my preaching in. The language might be the daily dose of a millennial but for me, this was obscure dialect with an obvious slang. Never in my career as a teacher had I gulped this obnoxious annihilation of respect. I thought cyber bullying was a tough pill for the youngsters but this seemed like nothing less than a torture from Tartarus to me.”

She shut her laptop and kept thinking. People think that the solution is quite easy, just put down your cellphone or delete your account. But it is much more complicated than that. The 24/7-hour nature of the internet can make people feel like there is no escape with the facing almost constant harassment which can leave them feeling desperate and isolated. For instance, cyberbullying in teenagers does not stop on the internet. That one comment on that one picture can be viewed by thousands of people. A person who is bullied in school is likely to be bullied online. There is no turning off and going outside

An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. If you have ever played the hangman game, you know how a wrong word can hang the man for his dear life. She couldn’t believe that something as serious as cyber bullying reminded her of a childhood game.

To this endless phenomenon we can only prevent it by coming down to one empathetic question that ensures your safety then… ‘Are you, yourself, a cyber bully?’  Next time you think of leaving a nasty comment on someone’s profile use the ‘3 S rule’.
STOP-Take a step back and assess the situation objectively.
Secondly, if you are going through a situation like this one SPEAK- Tell what you are going through to any person that you trust. Seek help, don’t stay mum, this is what they would want you to do.
 Lastly if your friend or loved one is at the receiving end of a banter escalation scenario offer some SUPPORT.

-Bansi and Manasi

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