KOCHI: Dr Arun B Nair, assistant professor of psychiatry at Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, delineates the mental framework of cyberbullies. “There are a group of people who can be categorised as passive-aggressive personalities. They appear to be very weak and submissive in real life but harbour a lot of negativity towards others.
They turn into cyber ‘activists’ by coming up with stories that are far from reality, spreading rumours or fake news. Such persons are intolerant of what others do and think they are in the right. Apart from them, people with narcissistic personality disorder have also been found to be cyberbullies. Narcissists cannot accept rejection or criticism and often use the virtual space to settle scores.”
Cyberbullies not only take refuge in the privacy offered by the virtual space but also ensure they stay in a grey area untouched by law. “There is a thin line between defamation and a criminal act which amounts to murder or rape threat. We can only register the case if a comment or troll is a potential threat or serious harassment,” added Manoj.
The convenient option of circumventing physical retribution for their opinions is what prompts online abusers to continue what they do. “Even if someone criticises them, it is going to be in the form of messages. Bullies think they can retort to that and get away. They also find solace among a section of people who second their views,” said Dr Arun.
According to Dr Arun, the excessive targeting of female celebrities is a manifestation of skewed gender sensitivity in a patriarchal society where some men think they have the authority over both the female body and her psyche. “People who cannot tolerate the success of an opinionated woman respected in her field resort to cyberbullying. It is mostly female celebrities or actresses who voice their views in the public realm that are targeted. Trolls are one attempt to psychologically weaken them,” added Arun.