Social media is the place where we put forth our views on socially-relevant issues so that we can have a discussion and broaden our perspectives. Ideally, that’s how we expect things to be on social media platforms. But unfortunately, often, things do not turn out thus.
For a person with a huge number of followers, it’s even tougher. One ‘wrong tweet’ can get the trolls to launch a hate/smear campaign and can even almost ruin your life. For some time, I used to think that this was true only in the case of celebrities. But now, I have realised that this menace has spilt over to nearly anyone with an active presence on social media.
You may have experienced an online troll, that is, someone who slanders you by trashing your work, calling names, abusing and even launching hate campaigns to destroy you. In some cases, many journalists and celebrities have even distanced themselves from social media entirely, when the abuse of trolls was too much for them to handle.
Just imagine getting up in the morning every day to see your acquaintances gossiping and saying all kinds of mean things. How horrible and terrifying for a person this can turn out to be! The latest victim of this is Harnidh Kaur aka “Pedestrian Poet”.
The whole issue started on Facebook. In a long post, Sakina Bootwala detailed her interactions with Shamir Reuben from a few years back, where he repeatedly asked her for nude photos and made comments of a sexual nature — even after she had made her disinterest clear.
Several girls narrated their experiences in the same thread.
Apparently, Harnidh and Shamir were close friends. In the aftermath, a mutual friend of both accused Harnidh of turning a blind eye to everything that was happening in front of her.
Then Harnidh came out on social media extending legal and moral support to anyone willing to file a complaint and apologised for not having taken action earlier.
Hmm, so @pedestrianpoet should be forgiven for calling for the PM's assassination coz she was 'only 18', but it is okay for 25 yr old Shamir Reuben to sext minor girls younger than 18, just coz he has made an FB post of an 'apology'? Nice!! https://t.co/dk7Wi7LLKX
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) February 9, 2018
The issue should ideally have ended with this. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Someone shared her 2016 tweet on Narendra Modi and Trump. What followed was the inevitable social media troll storm targeted towards her.
The issue was no longer about the molestation charges against her friend. It took an even uglier turn with some people asking The Print and Shekar Gupta to take action against her.
— Archie (@archu243) February 8, 2018
Hey @SecretService , I'm told that wishing death to @POTUS @realDonaldTrump can make u guys launch an emergency disclosure request to @Twitter against the offender. Plz have a look at this serial offender journo from India. She has wished death to Indian PM also. @ShekharGupta pic.twitter.com/QVMsLRxBSq
— THE SKIN DOCTOR (@theskindoctor13) February 8, 2018
Some even accused Shekar and The Print of colluding with her for making statements against Modi. Someone even took personal photos of her on Facebook to fan the flames of hatred.
The harsh truth is … People like @ShekharGupta MISUSE idiots like @PedestrianPoet to peddle their own "Inner Wishes" through shoulders of such idiots who want Modi, Trump dead… @Timesnow @Indiatoday @Republic @CNNnews18 @narendramodi @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/JYXshuJjwk
— MediaCrooks (@mediacrooks) February 9, 2018
Many Indians take offence on everything – including a harmless joke on their favourite celebrity or a statement against their political ideology. We have seen that during the Snapchat fiasco. In this case, people are tagging the CIA, the FBI and the NIA asking them to take action against her. I just marvel at the level of stupidity on display here!
The last time I checked, someone had filed an email complaint with the Mumbai police for her tweet. However, the legal possibility of action being taken in this case still needs to be checked.
As I said earlier, trolls often look for a reason to target a celebrity or well-known person. In my opinion, they often take out their frustration in life using pure hatred. They don’t need a reason to do it – they will find a reason to spread venom or insult someone. If you look at the way they work, they use slander, insults and name-calling to evoke an emotional response from that person. This often leads to more serious forms of cyber-bullying.
Earlier, it was Ranjini Haridas, Parvathy, Anand Mahindra, Swara Bhasker – and now, it’s Harnidh Kaur. Taking the shelter of an ideology to target someone is not justified. It’s no longer about questioning her bias towards her best friend – it has turned out to be an incident where dots have been joined to a previous tweet which has no relation to the present incident.
We should stop using social media as a means to target and harass someone to satisfy one’s ego or frustrations in life. We never know how it will affect that person in real life. We may never know it can push the person to depression, even suicide.
Let’s promise to make social media a better place for healthy discussions, and not a place for hatred.