Tackle the bully

Those subjected to cyberbullying should put an end to it by blocking the perpetrator and reporting the harassment.
Internet and social media platforms which are known for ‘anonymity and privacy’ unknowingly become the base for bullying.
Internet and social media platforms which are known for ‘anonymity and privacy’ unknowingly become the base for bullying.Express Illustration

BENGALURU: From a stray comment or emoji to over-the-line teasing message about someone’s personality, behaviour in virtual space can have disastrous consequences when it turns into cyberbullying, at times pushing someone to commit murder or tragically, end their own life after a relentless ‘trial-by-social media’ experience.

Kannada actor Darshan was arrested over allegations of involvement in the murder of a fan, reportedly triggered by online harassment or cyberbullying directed at one of Darshan’s close friends, Pavithra Gowda.

After the case came to light, Darshan’s 15-year-old son was cyberbullied and unfairly drawn into the situation. After continuous cyberbullying and hateful comments by trolls, the youngster took to social media and posted, “Thank you for all for the bad comments and not considering that I am a 15-year-old with feelings, and even during this hard time when my mom and dad required support cursing at me won’t change that you everyone (sic).”

Internet and social media platforms which are known for ‘anonymity and privacy’ unknowingly become the base for bullying as they allow the bully to engage in an increased degree of cruelty that would not occur if their identity was known. In such situations, victims often find themselves unable to escape abuse and harassment.

Unlike real-life encounters, online bullying persists without a break as the internet never truly shuts down, leading to torment for the victim. Experts suggest that ‘repetition’ is a defining feature of cyberbullying, which encompasses repeated actions by the bully, and the continuous nature of shared content on the internet. This longevity is particularly notable when personal information or photos are shared, perpetuating the harm caused.

Another prominent characteristic of bullying is the presence of a ‘power imbalance’ between the victim and the bully. This disparity can stem from factors such as the bully’s higher status, wealth, popularity or talent.

Speaking of the patterns, experts say that cyberbullying is often intense and persistent, leaving the victim with limited ability to halt the harassment. Bullies typically aim to cause harm through their actions online. However, with a growing social media presence where public opinion is of utmost importance to the users or victims, bullying can also occur ‘unintentionally’ if a victim perceives the actions as harmful.

WHY DO PEOPLE BULLY

With each incident, a recurring question emerges: What motivates bullying? Is it a manifestation of psychopathic tendencies or sadistic behaviour? Perhaps it stems from anger, jealousy or a desire for revenge. Alternatively, could it simply be the consequences of boredom taken to extreme measures?

Experts believe that some individuals participate in cyberbullying out of boredom or a desire to experiment with different personas online. This behaviour is often observed more frequently among young adults or teenagers who are in the process of shaping their identities. Such cyberbullying incidents typically involve anonymity.

People can sometimes transition into cyberbullies themselves after being victims of cyberbullying. This behaviour stems from a desire for control, or a need to retaliate against their initial tormentors. People then perceive the world as a binary choice between being a bully or being bullied.

The misuse of the internet also allows individuals to bully others online while maintaining complete anonymity, a capability not present in traditional bullying. Moreover, online bullying can be non-confrontationist, especially when done anonymously, enabling cyberbullies to post hurtful comments and then avoid engaging with any responses.

Cyberbullies might also be individuals experiencing isolation or loneliness within society. Feeling neglected by others, they may resort to lashing out to garner attention or vent their frustrations.

ANONYMITY AND FAKE IDENTITIES

Defining anonymity and concealed identity as one of the most distressing aspects of cyberbullying, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Chandragupta said the intimidation begins when individuals who know each other start bullying one another online using fake accounts. These actions can inflict severe emotional harm on the victims, sometimes driving them to take extreme measures.

Pointing out a common observation, he said that cyberbullying is mostly carried out using fake accounts on social media, with some perpetrators using Virtual Private Network (VPN) and privacy applications to conceal their identities, assuming that through this, they will not be traced.

IMPACT AND REPORT

Apart from seeking anonymity and privacy, many people, especially the younger generation, engage in cyberbullying out of curiosity to experience ‘how it feels’, Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Coordinator of SHUT (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) clinic, at NIMHANS said. Cyberbullies believe that anonymity will protect them and ensure that their identities remain hidden, he added.

Dr Sharma emphasised that such incidents must be discussed and reported, and victims should know where to seek help and how to report abuse. These incidents can severely undermine an individual’s self-confidence, leading them to question “Why me?” which can have a lifelong impact.

Past incidents

May 2024

A techie in Chennai took her own life after she was shamed for ‘carelessness’ when her eight-month-old baby accidentally slipped from her hands and fell on another apartment floor

Nov 2023

A 16-year-old teen died by suicide after relentless cyberbullying he faced due to his queer identity in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

May 2023

A 26-year-old woman died in Kottayam, Kerala, following cyberbullying by her close male friend, who released online personal chats between the two

Types of cyberbullying

Flaming or roasting: Using inflammatory language to provoke reactions

Outing: Publicly revealing personal or embarrassing information about someone online, often on a large scale rather than privately

Trolling: Posting provocative content or comments to incite chaos and division, enjoying the ensuing turmoil without personal involvement

Name calling: Using offensive language to insult others

False rumours: Fabricating stories about individuals and disseminating them online

Explicit images or messages: Sending unsolicited explicit content to victims without consent

Cyberstalking/ harassing/ physical threats: Repeatedly targeting individuals with online stalking, harassment or threat of physical harm

How to handle cyberbullying

  1. Change your privacy settings to limit who can contact you and see your content

  2. Take screenshot or save message of harassment as evidence

  3. Report to nearest police station or contact cyber helpline number 1098

  4. Use social media platform tools to report account or fake account

  5. Block the bully to prevent further contact

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com