Technology makes our lives easier and helps in the advancement of generations. We have, for example, built powerful vehicles, huge factories and skyscrapers, dams and cities. However, this advancement comes at a terrifying cost. For instance, all the above examples of technological advancement comes at the cost of destroying our climate. Similarly, the Internet has made our life comfortable. We can buy goods online, communicate with friends across the world via mails, and chat and make new friends on social media. The flip side of this is scary.
Bank accounts have been hacked due to cyber frauds, manipulative games that take the lives of people – the list goes on. Online predators look for vulnerable youth, pretend to be someone else, try to gain the trust of an individual and then attempt cyberbullying. It is important not to accept a friend request or communicate with someone on social media who is not personally known to you. One of the most consistently found differences between traditional bullying and cyberbullying is that victims can be bullied anytime from anywhere because most children have access to digital devices outside of school. It only takes one click to ruin a kid’s life.
Types of cyberbullying
Before we get into the nuances of cyberbullying, it is important to understand the different types of it. This enables you to be aware and not become a victim of cyberbullying. Some of these are:
1. Issuing online threats, thereby provoking an individual to kill themselves or hurt someone else
2. Triggering religious, racial, ethnic or political vitriol online by posting hate comments
3. Faking an identity online to ask for an indecent picture
4. Posting fake information and hurtful rumours about an individual online
5. Publishing a photoshopped photo or video
6. Creating a fake or inappropriate webpage about another individual
A story on doxing
The story below is an example of doxing. “Dox” means to stalk and publish private information about a particular individual on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.
Trisha was good with computers and pretty savvy with her smartphone too. She had thousands of friends on her social media account. In fact, she would blindly accept all friend requests without bothering to check their profiles. She changed her profile picture every week and posted everything she did. She was often told by her friends that her habit of accepting every random friend request would land her in trouble, but their words would always fall on deaf ears.
One day, as she checked her messages on her social media account, she found a message from an unknown account that read: “I know what you did. I know who you are. I am going to follow you like your shadow and will expose you soon” along with an inappropriate, photoshopped image of hers. Trisha trembled with fear. She realised that someone had been stalking her online. “How stupid of me to post everything online!” she cried. She quickly logged on to her laptop and deleted all her pictures from her social media accounts. She realised that she should have done this earlier and should have never shared everything online.
The next day, she opened her smartphone only to have another message, “You think I am dumb! You cannot remove your digital footprint from the virtual world. I already have all the data with me, and I will show you what I can do. I will ruin your life.” She shivered. At the same time, she was angry with everything that was happening, and, on an impulse, wanted to give a fitting reply. However, better sense prevailed. “If I respond, the bully will be delighted as the person’s aim is to humiliate and harass me.”
She did three things. One, she blocked the harasser from her mobile; second, she deleted all her pictures from the profile so that nobody could use them again; third, she made a list of possible culprits; and fourth, she took a snapshot of the messages sent by the harasser.
She shared her ordeal with her parents and later a police complaint was filed. Later, when she shared the incident with her friend Jayshree, she said, “I am glad that you took the right actions to protect yourself from cyberbullying. It could be any one of us and I shall also remain careful in the future.” Jayshree also said that she made mistakes by posting a lot of unnecessary stuff on social media.
In a nutshell
Nothing ever goes away once it is posted online. Hence, before you post:
T: is it true?
H: is it helpful?
I: is it inspiring?
N: is it necessary?
K: is it kind?
Never share passwords or any bank-related data on dubious online sites. If you find yourself in some cyber problem, immediately inform your family, friends and the police. Always remember, the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” does not apply in the cyber world, where false, hurtful and humiliating comments can go viral in just seconds and take a toll on your mental health.
Excerpted with permission from Bullyproof Yourself: Empowering You to Become Resilient, Virender Kapoor, Rupa Publications.