It was a sunny day – dry and dehydrating. I was trying to meet the deadline for a news article when my phone blinked and I got a message. The message was from a stranger who had apparently been stalking me on social media for a while. The message read, “Hi. Is it so difficult to respond to a friend request?”
I ignored the message. I didn’t know at the time how devastatingly lengthy my ordeal was going to be. I just thought it was an unwanted message.
I was standing in the queue of an ATM and going through my messages when the stranger threatened me again to accept his friend request. I ignored him once again, believing such people were best ignored. But ignoring him didn’t help.
The next morning, my inbox was flooded with obscene messages – some of them featuring nudity. The ego of the stranger had overpowered his wisdom. I wrote a long message, threatening to expose him. He didn’t realise at the time but I knew how the law worked regarding cyber harassment. I searched for the relevant laws and sent him the links. The trail of messages finally stopped. This is the story of an aam (ordinary) girl.
I am not sorry for what I did. I am not sorry for holding this person publicly accountable. I am not sorry for being mean to a stalker, and I am not sorry for saying ‘no’. I am not sorry for anything I did to protect myself from social media vultures. These opportunistic vultures sit and patiently wait for the right time to hunt. Their hunt for cheap publicity, revenge and satiation of their ego is meant to leave us in pieces. It’s time to fight back! The ego is a false sense of the self, born out of fear and inferiority.
Who are these cyber stalkers? They may even be your ex-lovers, colleagues, spouses, the friend who feels cheated because of your crush, or just a highly opinionated person for whom only their opinion matters.
With technology improving in leaps and bounds, it has also given birth to new ways of cyberbullying, along with old techniques like morphing photographs. These new techniques involve memes, GIFs and morphed videos. Trolling, which is quite trendy nowadays, is the deliberate act of provoking a response through the use of insults or crass language on online forums and social networking sites.
But you don’t have to get agitated. If they try to bully you, fight back. Don’t let filthy messages hamper your sanctity. Fight back strong, as harshly and wisely as you need to. Kill them with your wit.
Since it’s unlikely that you will be able to ‘reason’ with a cyber stalker, it’s better to equip yourself with the legal help. According to The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, Section 66A, any person who sends you offensive messages, pictures or information shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years. Meanwhile, sections 72 and 72A of the same have made ‘breach of privacy’ punishable.
1. Do not share your personal information in a public space. If you’re sharing such information with another person, be careful. Bear in mind that being in love and sharing passwords can be two different things.
2. Be careful who you choose to add to your friend list. A friend list may be exclusively for friends.
3. Use online segregation tools such as blocking, reporting spams, and strong encryption programmes to ensure private communication.
4. If you are being stalked, warn and file a complaint to the nearest police station.
5. Keep evidence of possible harassment by saving messages, photos or videos.