“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow,” said Bill Gates. However, what also needs to be assuaged in this statement is the numerous alleyways and snitches operating in their masquerading garbs. As the Internet keeps on revolutionizing the way we interact and do business, it’s just as imperative to equally understand the perils of its usage.
Sadly, what allows us a suave and quirky solution with the click of a button can also tarnish one’s image or change one’s life forever. From child pornography to revenge pornography, from phishing to shaming or bullying. These remind us how dangerous and dark the web can be.
Luckily for me, I’ve never been a victim of internet trolls and bullying. However, I’ve had friends who have borne the brunt. From posting a photo to updating a status the internet – its many users are so opinionated that it sometimes misses the point in a materialistic world with so much peer pressure, where one is forced to fit in and adopt the Veblen effect.
With numerous social media platforms and many more coming up, we seem to be living in an age of self-imposed surveillance (as I’d like to call it), where what we eat, drink, or where we check-in has to be either updated or added to show the many unscrupulous followers and “friends”. Among the most popular platforms are Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, which allow one unhindered access and choice to make their private lives always public. This makes people easily vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Man is highly argumentative and opinionated, and will always have views on many things. As per a survey conducted by Sameer Hinduja and Justin W Patchin for Cyberbullying Research Center, which surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 5,700 middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 in the United States, it showed that Facebook remains the most popular social media platform. Moreover, this data, which was collected between July and October of 2016, also show casts that nearly 33.8% of a sample size of 40% have been cyberbullied somewhere or the other, with the number women overshooting men 36.7% to 30.5%.
Cyberbullying has many facets. A mere hurtful comment or rumour, threatening posts, or impersonation – all amount to cyberbullying. As we bridge the gap between the online world and the real world, we are sadly breaking the bridges of one’s self-esteem, as nasty comments on one’s weight, appearance and clothes can do a lot of harm, making victims go through depression, loneliness or suicide.
A recent example of cyberbullying has been the Blue Whale Challenge – an online game that originated in Russia, in which a certain curator gives a participant a task to complete daily for a period of 50 days, the final of which is the participant committing suicide. Participants are expected to share photos of the challenges/tasks completed by them. The tasks start off as easy, then progress into self-mutilation and eventually suicide. The game caused massive protests from schools and parents alike, taking as many as 100 lives till August 2017 all around the world.
As per Cyber Bullying Research Center, cell phones and other mobile devices continue to be the most popular technology utilized by adolescents. Approximately 12% of the students in the sample admitted to cyberbullying others at some point in their lifetime. Posting mean comments online was the most commonly reported type of cyberbullying. The type of cyberbullying tends to differ by gender; girls were more likely to say someone spread rumours about them online while boys were more likely to say that someone threatened to hurt them online.
Luckily there have been grievance mechanisms, whether the local law and order authority or the media portals themselves, with many laws and framework that allow victims redressal. However, the internet world is infinite and its users ambiguous, so the onus lies on us to usher the limits and our safety. Apps like Facebook have a report against or report abuse button that allows one to limit the circulation of particular posts or updates, or a block option which allows one to prevent someone from visiting or seeing their profile.
Sadly, there is little we can do in the realms of internet safety, except follow the cardinal rule that precaution is better than cure. Limiting one’s updates to a group, and not randomly accepting a friend request from anyone, should be the rule. Also, being aware of the Information Technology Act and its legal implications is a must, so that one can apply these frameworks when in trouble. Getting in touch with the customer care division of these social media portals, instead of choosing to just ignore, is important.
The internet is indeed good if used properly, and similarly bad if used with ulterior motives. In the words of JK Rowling, “The internet has been a boon and a curse for teenagers.” It’s important that we don’t substitute the Internet for our lives.