By Baldeep Grewal:
‘Mujhey lagta tha ki pariaan siraf jannat mein hoti hain… but apki photu dekh ke saakshaat darshan ho gaye. Aap ne meri soch badal di. Will you fraandsheep me fairy?’
(I thought angels could only be found in heaven… after seeing your picture I saw one for myself. You have changed my thinking. )
This message in my friend’s Facebook inbox had us both in splits. There were many more such earnest requests for ‘fraandsheep’. Some even took it to the next level and proposed marriage outright. Many Indian girls who use Facebook find their accounts plagued by such messages every now and then. Some who don’t are either boys using a fake profile or blessed with a misleading Punjabi name like mine.
What starts out as a mildly annoying string of messages soon develops into bigger issues. Male egos are hurt, female egos are bolstered and users are lucky to be able to walk away from the mess that is created. A disturbingly large number of crimes like acid attacks, abductions, rapes etc. started out as a seemingly harmless message on facebook. Saying ‘no’ is not the only solution. One needs to know how to say it so that things don’t turn sour. Here are a few tips:
– Ignore the message and block the person. In most cases, the offender messages around 10-20 girls at a time. He definitely would not bother to follow up on each one of his messages. Even if he does, continue to ignore. The person might start messaging you from a different account or might even get hold of your phone number by posing as your friend from people on your friend list. In order to know what to do in that case, read on.
– Reply in the manner of a formal question like ‘Do I know you?’ Refrain from being aggressive or insulting.
– The reply to your query will obviously not be in affirmative. Very politely but firmly, tell the person that you do not talk to strangers and ask them to not message you again. It is very important to keep one’s cool and not be offensive. Use words like ‘please’ and ‘kindly’. Speaking from personal experience, being polite actually makes the other person respect you and leave you alone. Like they say, what goes around comes around.
– In case the messages still don’t stop revert to the first step – ignore the messages. In all probability, they will stop.
– If you continue to face harassment and are starting to feel threatened, approach your parents, teachers or any other older member of the family. They will handle the situation for you effectively and efficiently. It’s just one of those magical things that parents and teachers are capable of.
– In case you do not want to approach your parents, note down the email ID/phone number of the offender and submit it to the nearest women help centre. If you have active NSS or Women’s Empowerment societies in your college approach them with your problem. Contact details of the offender may also be submitted to the authorities by calling on the women helpline number: 01123817100. Another helpline is 1091. Be open with the details and do not hold back any information that you have on the offender. Confide in your friends. Do not feel embarrassed in complaining about such harassment. You are the victim here and being passive would only encourage the perpetrator.
– If you have a lot of free time you can even create a fake account and message the offender as your own boyfriend. Oh, the joys of the internet.
– Refer to the person as ‘bhaiya’ (brother) in your replies. Being bro-zoned is the ultimate terror of every male. In order to save face, he will stop messaging you altogether or slink out of your facebook inbox with a sheepish ‘sori sister’. On Raksha Bandhan I was in the general compartment of the metro. I was extremely irritated by the constant stares of the men standing around me. My friend got off at her stop and as she was leaving I called out ‘If any man stares at you, tie a Rakhi on his wrist’. The rest of my journey in the metro was comfortably stare-free.
– Do not succumb to the common notion that aggressiveness and use of derogatory language is the best solution to harassment. Such behavior seems to work in cases where the offender tries to intimidate the victim in person. One’s body language emphasizes the aggressiveness; making the victim seem like someone who is not easily intimidated. The internet is a world where words are disguises. Cyber harassment offenders generally have deep-seated insecurities about their personalities. The keyboard gives them an opportunity to hide these insecurities and pose as a larger than life figure. Abusive replies would fuel these insecurities and invite extremely aggressive reactions from the offenders. Understanding the psychology of the person one is dealing with is very important.
Ours is a big, bad world and it pays to be careful. Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know personally. Adjust your privacy settings so that only your friends can view your pictures and posts. Refrain from striking up conversations with strangers on social networking sites. Don’t have any qualms about friend-zoning and bro-zoning. If a boy thinks you are obligated to say yes to him just because he is ‘nice’ to you he deserves to be friend-zoned.
The cyber world is like the ‘Hunger Games’ arena and before one steps in, they should have their wits about them as well as a cool head. Happy cyber games and may the odds be ever in your favor.