People seem to think that the internet has an inherently bad moral influence. This is particularly true for most of the older people I know. They’re constantly sighing and shaking their heads, telling me that texting and media-sharing platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp are what’s ruining young people and their malleable minds.
I, for one, think that this is a gross underestimation of and insult to a whole generation. I believe that we can definitely give ourselves more credit than that. We are not blind – and we are certainly not sheep.
I can say with absolute confidence (and immense gratitude and pride) that I would not have been half the person I am today without the internet – and the opportunities it offers to somebody with social confidence as low as mine. Without the fascinating world of the internet, I would not have been able to pass college with as much ease as I did. I would not have been able to learn to love myself, learn about the most-burning social issues and take part actively in changing the situation in such a trouble-free way.
Having said that, however, the internet is, after all, a neutral tool – and it can be used for good and bad purposes alike. Dating sites such as OkCupid do not stop anyone from messaging just anyone, whether they matched or not (very recently, they’ve started introducing changes). In my opinion, these sites often profit from misogynistic men having access to women’s inboxes and loading them with obscene messages to the brim.
This makes it almost impossible for us to keep up with Facebook, Instagram and many other social sites, which often have sexist double standards and regulations for posting content. For example, showing female nudity is prohibited on such platforms, while showing men’s nipples is acceptable – and this has, of course, led to a lot of humorous memes. Rupi Kaur’s photo, which showed menstrual blood stains, was taken down by Instagram for violating their community guidelines – while photos objectifying women continue to be celebrated all over.
Most women, of course, know the kind of nightmare that often await them when they open the “Other” folder of her mail inbox, or on Facebook – even though there’s now a filter for messages from people with whom you have no mutual friends.
Women also have to hear a lot of negative/judgmental comments and face harassment online on a regular basis. After all, even the internet is not free from the world of misogyny. Insults and threats are terrifying and disabling – especially for people who are already battling anxiety, depression and body image issues.
I know for sure how many times I think before posting anything remotely feminist, anticipating the attack I am surely going to face – and this has happened so very often, with groups of friends ganging up on me to shut down the conversation, and mock me and my views. Therefore, it is no surprise that I sometimes get weary of such damaging interactions and take steps in order to prevent such incidents from occurring again. It is absolutely fine to block or report a person – if you feel you are not ready to deal with the mental energy it takes to deal with that kind of engagement.
If you find yourself blocked by someone you knew, remember to not take it personally. It could well mean that you are a genuinely unpleasant person and you did something very problematic. it could be possible that the content you’ve shared or what you’ve said to them (even unintentionally), was a trigger that affected their mental health. Maybe there are things that the person does not want to be reminded of, for a few days. Give it time. Respecting and giving people that space is important.
Reporting and blocking can also backfire. Women often have had their protest posts and photos brought down, and their profiles blocked for raising their voices against harassment and double standards. The good thing, though, is that a lot of women like Rupi Kaur are unapologetically demanding the right to have fair access to voicing their minds online, and are challenging patriarchy and the rampant misogyny found everywhere, online and offline.
In 2018, women and men across the world are making it known that there indeed is no place for hate – on the internet or off. The bottom line is: words hurt, whether digital or not.
Laura Bates is a shining example of this. Her Everyday Sexism Project is an initiative that offers sexual assault survivors a chance to talk about their experiences, no matter how big or small – and reclaim the digital space from the haters and negativity.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.