By Seli Baisie
The use of social media is increasingly becoming a common phenomenon in this era, it has made it easier for bullies to hide behind their keypads and type hateful comments about individuals. Determined bullies have always found ways to antagonize others, but digital platforms have given them new powers. This barbaric act has claimed innocent lives in recent times and over the years.
Tokunaga (2010), defined cyberbullying as “any behavior performed through electronic or digital media by individuals or groups that repeatedly communicate hostile and aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others”. This explains that any act or comments on the internet that humiliates, insults, discredit, disrespect, defame and abuse the rights and privileges of people could be considered as cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can be anonymous where someone hides their identity when bullying online. This act can be detrimental to people of any age, including children, teens and adults.
According to reports, online hate speech in the UK and US has risen by 20% since the start of the pandemic.
It reveals that 50.1 million discussions about, or examples of, racist hate speech in that time.
The report found that hate speech and racist conversations spiked around major news events during the pandemic in March 2020.
These included the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020 and the murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021.
On social media, where most people now live their lives, it is often difficult to retreat, which can take a huge toll on victims, including social isolation, depression, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Tragically, a lot of people have committed suicide due to cyberbullying and has been on the rise for the past decade among young people worldwide.
Mostly, cyberbullies are people who are unhappy, bitter about their life, therefore tend to take it out on people who are happy, successful or present in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
There’s this notion that the online world isn’t the same as ‘real life’ and that communication that happens via social media shouldn’t be taken as seriously. Why’s that the case? Let’s be reminded that the people online are humans with feelings and emotions. They’re not robots. The people we connect with on social media are people we also socialize with in real life. They are either friends, classmates, celebrities, or family.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are common grounds for bullies.
Some of these bullies troll known personalities on these apps, some do it for the fun of it, not thinking of the harm it causes others.
Not forgetting the so-called bloggers who fabricate stories to entice the public to read their articles. Most of them write lies about known personalities just for click bait or clout. Such articles humiliate, disrespect and damage the integrity of these known personalities and if not handled properly can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Furthermore, cyberbullying also affects children negatively. According to research, 32% of kids who are victims of cyberbullying report feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and hopelessness.
For instance, a child who feels insecure about his or her looks, post pictures online ends up being bullied. The child can begin to doubt their worth and value which leads to low self-esteem.
Researchers speculate that young people have an intense psychological need to be part of society and accepted by their peers hence cyberbullying may cause psychological problems, reduced well-being, and suicidal thoughts.
To conclude, the effects of cyberbullying discussed above are overwhelming and need to be addressed to prevent people from being victimized. All victims should report the abuse to the relevant social media site, take screenshots of the abuse as evidence if the posts are removed and if possible report to the Police if they feel nothing is being done to curb the bullying.