Social media is like a hastily put together bowl of Maggi noodles. Sometimes there’s too much water, sometimes a smattering of vegetables, and sometimes just eggs. But, no matter what, you keep reaching out for the bowl. No wonder it can surprise you, both pleasantly and unpleasantly.
About a few months ago, I happened to receive a ‘Message Request’ from a stranger on Instagram. Now, those who use Instagram regularly are aware of how the only way to block unwanted message requests is to tap it open. The option to block appears at the bottom of the screen. Little did I know that I’d be graced with dick pictures from an unknown person! Yes, that’s exactly the word this person used while flooding my user account with you-know-what.
Imagine my chagrin while I desperately tried to hit the ‘block’ button and my phone froze from all that exaggerated tapping. Of course, I took to Facebook to ask all my acquaintances to report that user on Instagram. And, it worked. I was notified by Instagram that the profile has been removed. All was well for a while before the very same person decided to create a fake account under one of my long lost school junior’s name, faked visiting my blog, and sent more dick pictures once I thanked ‘her’ for liking my blog posts. The person even had the guts to say ‘Gotcha’ before I blocked the message thread, a second time.
And no, this time I didn’t ask my Facebook acquaintances to report the user.
You know why? Because, sometimes the best that you can do is ignore, completely shut any influence out. Does that mean I’m giving in to online harassment? To answer that, no. I’m not. I’m merely choosing to deny the person any agency of knowing that they got to me, affected me, left an impact so bad that I had to consider taking mass help to eradicate one of their virtual presence. My silence and choice to ignore is not simply my inability to protest. It is, in fact, my way of not allowing an anonymous online presence the right to affect my mental and emotional well being. After all, I’d never know who the person happens to be, and even if I did, chances are, I wouldn’t know even if they were staring me in the face. So, my best defence is to refuse them the pleasure of knowing they have affected me.
Online harassers often seek validity, even if it is in terms of a negative response. What could be more effective than not giving them that response, right? Of course, what I chose to do was one of the many responses I’ve had to such occurrences, and the incident, one of many. But, believe me when I say, sometimes denying your harasser a direct, communicative, virtual response can shut them off completely. At least, it shut off mine.
Maybe once my post goes online my harasser will read it. Maybe the person is a known face. Maybe the person is not. I’ll never know. All I know is, there’s immense gratification in taking control of your situation, even if you’re on the wrong side of crossing boundaries. And, it’s OK to not be responsive.
P.S: Power to everyone out there fighting off online predators in whichever way, whichever capacity they can. Remember, you are the only one in charge of yourself.
Featured image for representational purposes only.