The current day and age of the internet is an unbearable cesspool, not because of the current socio-political and the economic climate, but because people now have free time in their hands, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. And a lot of free time is definitely not a good idea because there is always a possibility that it will be misused. And that’s what’s happening on the internet.
Back in the 2000s, the internet was taking its baby footsteps and in just a few years, it became a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the rise of social media giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The main aim of social media was to connect with people even if they live on the other side of the world. It is funny how the online world has changed in the past decade or so.
As the 2010s roared in, there was a rise in e-celebrities who received fame on social media and the entire internet as a whole. But it also brought new problems. And when I talk about new problems, I mean the rise of online harassment, cancel culture, political correctness, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, social media trials, online witch hunts and so on. And most of the time, women end up becoming the target of this online ill treatment.
Looks like Joseph McCarthy’s legacy has somehow reached the internet like a plague and has affected a lot of people. Such harassment has not only affected the mental health of women, but also made them feel suicidal. Their self-esteem gets harmed in some cases or they suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress etc. The suicide case of Hana Kimura is the biggest example of this. A Japanese wrestler who died by suicide after receiving tons of online harassment messages over a reality series shows how people can show their worst in troubled times.
Let’s talk about Neha Dhupia. Say what you will about what she said on Roadies Season 18, is she really worth being harassed just because she made a fool of herself? It’s true what she said was wrong, mostly because the guy had no right to hit a girl (in fact, no one should slap anyone of any gender). And yes, her opinion is hypocritical, given the fact that she praised a female contestant for slapping 4-5 guys. But it does not mean that she should be harassed by a mob and the fact that even her daughter received online threats just proves how low people have stooped.
Or what about Hindustani Bhau and Shubham Mishra? The former sent rape threats to women in the name of patriotism and encouraged his 14-year-old fanbase to do the same, whereas the latter sent a rape threat over a joke. I guess we all know what happened to Agrima Joshua. When the female stand-up comedian made a joke about a historical figure (Shivaji Maharaj), her set was destroyed by the mob and she received rape threat by Shubham Mishra.
Although Mishra was arrested by the police, it just shows how tolerance level has gone downhill. During the initial stages of YouTube vs TikTok, when former TikToker Revolver Rani responded to the Roasters of YouTube, she received harassment from their fanbase, not to mention that homophobic slurs were used thanks to the justification given by the roasters.
When the #JusticeForSSR crusade was going on, TRP mosquitoes of mainstream media made tons of fanfictions and conspiracy theories about Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty. Social media added salt to the injury through McCarthyism-type witch hunts and Supreme Court-like trials of Rhea were conducted. She was not only being harassed by reporters, but also by the raging mob who believed all the conspiracy theories and fanfiction doing rounds. Whether she was involved in Sushant’s case remains a question, but this question should be investigated by the Court, not some 14-year-old or 28-year-old who has nothing more to say other than threatening a girl or making misogynistic comments about her.
Fast forward to February 2021, the mob found its new target — Rihanna. Why? Because she tweeted in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest in India. To think that her tweet would harm the sovereignty of India, the mob hit a new low when they justified Chris Brown’s action to physically abuse Rihanna.
As if this couldn’t get any worse, environment activist Disha Ravi got arrested on February 13, 2021, because she allegedly has connections to the group, along with Greta Thunberg, who made a toolkit. Now I don’t personally agree with Thunberg for a few reasons, like how she preaches climate change, yet travels on yachts or planes that produce harmful carbon emissions, thus showing her hypocrisy. But she and Ravi are not worth being vilified, harassed or humiliated just because they don’t agree with the status quo.
If you think that the internet is not safe for women, then you haven’t seen the real world, my friend. Look at Bollywood. Bollywood elites love to preach women empowerment and feminism, yet, their female actors are objectified in their item songs or most of David Dhawan movies. Hollywood elites preach the same thing despite the fact that they have given a standing ovation, fame, recognition to sexual offenders, rapists, paedophiles and people with allegations of sexual assault and/or domestic violence. These figures include Casey Affleck, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski and Mel Gibson. They also have connections with Jeffrey Epstein.
Of course, there are legal and practical ways to deal with the online harassment of women. But the real responsibility lies within the mob because they don’t understand that their actions have grave consequences and it could not only affect the lives of the people they hurt, but of themselves as well. So, they really need to be very careful about what they say.