By Dame Julie Okah Donli |
Cyberbullying or cyber harassment also known as online bullying is a common trend of abuse that is characteristic of the 21st century. Although it happens online, this form of abuse has sent victims down the dungeon of depression and even suicide. It is a form of abuse that takes place via electronic device. It mostly takes place on social media, online messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is a deliberate use of words and actions aimed at scaring, provoking and humiliating victims.
The dangers of cyber bullying is that in most cases, the perpetrators create proxy accounts to conceal their identities and troll their victims. Cyber bullying takes place in different ways and one of such ways is spreading lies about an individual, organization or institution.
We have had cases where people sit in the comfort of their homes and cook up all sorts of lies and post with the aim of defaming the character of their victim. In many cases, government officials, political office holders, business men and celebrities fall victim of this form of cyber bullying. For instance, out of hatred and jealousy, someone makes a post about how a particular public office holder has embezzled millions of naira and is using the money for personal projects and the next thing is you see social media users and keypad warriors sharing, liking and commenting on the posts without taking time to verify the authenticity of the information. Some go as far as lying about peoples’ relationship and marriages. You come on social media and read that a celebrity’s marriage or relationship has crashed because he or she was caught cheating, etc. and all sorts of unprintable lies.
Frequently, we see victims of cyber bullying coming out to defend themselves but of course that does little good because the damage has already been done. A couple of days ago, a celebrity couple made a video that has now gone viral about their marriage and experiences while trying to conceive and they spent a long time talking about how cyber bullying almost caused them their sanity as social media users posted all sorts of lies as the reason why they had not conceived.
A married woman who is yet to conceive posts a picture on social media and people take to the comment session to ask how she has the guts to post pictures when she has not been able to have a child. Some go to the extent of accusing her of being the cause of her inability to conceive. You read things like “oh, her womb has been damaged by abortion, her husband is impotent, they have used their unborn children for money rituals and that is the reason why they are not able to have children” and then the victims are left to nurture not just the pains of delayed conception but also the psychological trauma that comes with cyber bullying.
Another form of cyber bullying is posting unauthorized, fake or embarrassing pictures of people online. In this part of the world, it is not uncommon to wake up to see an embarrassing picture of you in social media. You are left to wonder when and how the picture was taken and how it got to social media only for you to realize that an overzealous social media user took a photo of you while you dozed off in a plane or public bus and decided to make it trend on social media so as to drive traffic to his or blog or page. Social media users also Photoshop pictures of people to show them completely or half naked and upload to porn blogs and other illicit sites. Some could even obtain your contact addresses such as phone numbers, email address and then upload alongside these immoral pictures and before you can even understand what is happening, your social media inbox, email inbox and telephone numbers are buzzing with all sorts of unwanted activities.
Threatening people with violence or harm is also a form of cyber bullying. People call you for one form of help or the other and when you make them understand that you cannot afford to help at that moment, they begin to rain insult on you and threaten to harm you, your loved ones or even vandalize your properties. Some accuse politicians of embezzling funds meant for the community and so issue a threat or warning to him that he and his/her family must not visit a particular area else they will be dealt with.
Forging fake chats and messages and uploading online is also a form of cyber harassment. Marriages have crashed, jobs have been lost, relationships broken all because someone decided to forge a fake chat about some people and upload it on social media. Some victims have committed suicide because of this and some have fallen into serious depression. Impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf also falls under this category. It causes a lot of problems for the victims and often leaves them in a position where they have to go through a lot just to defend their name
Children can also experience cyber bullying while playing online video games. Some have been forced into joining bad associations and even engaging in all sorts of immoral activities as a result of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying can happen alongside other forms of abuse but what makes this different is that the internet never forgets and so when your reputation is damaged online, it may take a longer time for the damage to be corrected, therefore, we must be careful about how we use the internet, the kind of pictures we take and must avoid disclosing personal information and contact addresses online. Social media group owners, influencers and blogs should also desist from accepting paid adverts targeted at tarnishing the image of individuals and groups.