Cyber-bullying and Mental Health

“If you’re insulting people on the internet, you must be ugly on the inside.”

― Phil Lester

Growing up, I experienced typical name-calling and spiteful comments. As a grown-up, I dealt with cases of virtual bullies. So, I believe it is necessary to create ample awareness among people about how deadly bullying and cyberbullying is to the mental health of people. 

Before advanced technology, children and teenagers were troubled by school bullies and we had experiences of a lot of street hooligans practicing name-calling and spitting spiteful comments. With the advancement of Social Networking, we now have virtual bullies.

Cyberbullying is defined as using the computer or other electronic devices to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another individual. 

For those who look up to social apps as stressbusters, the present platforms of social networking is a total inconvenience. This is due to how social media is used nowadays. 

Social Media has become a perfect platform for cyberbullies to spread threats and negativity rapidly through trolling, venging, creating vain arguments, counterattacking, threatening, gender discrimination, racial conflicts, religious controversies, body-shaming, belittling, hating, ganging, exclusion*, harassment, outing/doxing*, trickery*, cyberstalking*, fraping*, masquerading*, dissing* and flaming*. 

“People’s behaviors are messages, not a diagnosis because I can no longer discern the world’s version of insanity.”

― Shannon L. Alder

Cyberbullying via Twitter

As someone who used to be on twitter for quite some time, I experienced two versions of social twitter. 

  1. The old twitter-sphere that spread positivity, provided verified news alerts, backed up one another and was a happy place to go to. 
  2. The new twitter-sphere that spreads a lot of negativity, provides fake news for attention and fame, bullies one another in the name of fun, entertainment and attention-seeking and is a hell to go to. 

A mostly used dialogue by people on twitter is ‘Don’t judge’ although what is followed is a complete contrast. Not surprising yet, because we live in a time where what is preached is hardly practiced. 

We find a lot of people going about tweeting quotes, positive sayings, religious verses and opinions in various forms. Although it is nice to read and relate to, this side of twitter is now overtaken by a lot of users from real and fake accounts who go online only for the sake of cyberbullying. 

Cyberbullying on twitter is done in ways that the bullies themselves do not realize that they are bullying around. As I have mentioned, there are many ways in which bullying is done and on twitter, you’ll find most of it. 

From counterattacking, hate replies, quoting tweets with insults, indirect hate tweets to outing/doxing, creating religious conflicts and spreading racism, twitter is being used for various forms of cyber-bullying with/without the knowledge of the users. As fuel to the burning fire, others back up these bullies by supporting them through cheap likes and shares. If what these bullies are doing is a direct crime, by hitting ‘like’ on their hatred speech instead of reporting it, you become a bully too!

Sometimes it takes me aback how unkind and cruel people have become when I read tweets with extreme hatred. It is disheartening to hear stories of users being harassed and shamed for not responding to direct messages. 

Cyberbullying via Instagram

As of Instagram, it is often perturbing to see people pleading from their followers to ‘report’ pages because they are being outed/doxed, frapped, masqueraded or flamed. Although we help such users by ‘reporting’ such bullies, it is not completely eradicated. 

From a different level of bullying on Instagram, we even find accounts of celebrities hacked and inappropriate/sexual content being shared from their pages. 

Unbelievable stats of forms of Cyberbullying

  1.  Over 6% of global users have had their online accounts hacked, and 4% have lost access to their devices due to hackers.
  2. The most common types of online harassment, according to US students, are mean comments (22.5%), online rumors (20.1%), and sexual remarks (12.1%)
  3. Internet trolls are most active on social media. 38% observe trolling behavior on such platforms, while 23% have seen them frequently “operate” on video sharing websites.
  4. Over 45% of employees in bigger companies agree their employer has a comprehensive cyberbullying policy in place.
  5. Multiracial females have the highest risk of being victimized by bullies. 210 out of 1000 victims are high school girls with different skin color.
  6. Cyberbullying statistics among female students in the US unveil that 36.7% have experienced online abuse at least once in their lifetime. 10.2% admit to bullying others.
  7. Bullies often ridicule disabilities and mental problems like autism (75%), physical defects (70%), and learning problems (52%)
  8. Alarming facts about cyberbullying in Asian countries — a survey among 3000 students reveal 48.4% have had embarrassing videos of them posted online and 47.3% have been a victim of hate speech.
  9. 63% of internet trolls in the US prefer to engage in political topics. Other popular subject matters are celebrities (52%) and religion (48%).
  10. Online bullying among US teenagers often includes offensive name-calling (42%), spreading false rumors (32%) and receiving unwanted explicit images (25%).
  11. Social media cyber bullying is most prevalent on Instagram (42%), followed by Facebook (37%) and Snapchat (31%).
  12. Victim stats suggest women are most vulnerable on Facebook (57%). Other high-risk social platforms are Facebook Messenger (23%) and Instagram (10%).

“Think before you click. If people do not know you personally and if they cannot see you as you type, what you post online can be taken out of context if you are not careful in the way your message is delivered.”

Germany Kent

Statistics reveal that cyberbullying does not only deteriorate the social life of people but even could go to the extent of putting an end to their lives. 

  1. From those bullied in the last year, 37% developed social anxiety while 36% fell into depression.
  2. Online abuse and suicidal thoughts are directly interconnected. 24% have contemplated suicide after continuous cyberbullying.
  3. Most significant psychological impacts for female victims of cyberbullying include feelings of powerlessness (66%), loss of sleep (63%), and lower self-esteem (61%).
  4. Targets of cyberbullying are at a greater risk than others of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors
  5. Approximately 18% of youth report self-harming due to cyberbullying at least once, impacting 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys
  6. About 6% of students have digitally self-harmed, or anonymously posted online or shared hurtful content about themselves.
  7. Students who experienced bullying or cyberbullying are nearly 2 times more likely to attempt suicide
  8. Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness, one of the greatest risk factors for suicide derived from cyberbullying. 
Source: CDC

As much as we come forward together as good human beings for good causes like funding for various diseases, supporting in protecting basic rights, it is very important for all of us to understand that every word we share in the internet could create an impact in the life of another individual or group and choose it wisely before we tap to make it visible for reading. 

We all speak of mental health as a cause at present and it is overwhelming to see countless individuals gathering as organizations and teams to create awareness. You do not have to volunteer specifically for any such organizations, but remember kindness is free and so are good actions and speech.

Use social media to inspire people; tweet to express good moves and kind words and not to impress and gain false attention and fame, comment to share compliments not hatred and criticisms, quote tweets and share posts not to insult but to appreciate and support people for the good in them, like the good and ignore bad. 

“When a fool utters all kinds of insults against you in a social media group without even knowing you or without any worthwhile reason or provocation usually they are merely sad & pathetic attention-seeking trolls who we should all feel sorry for. They don’t deserve our anger. They deserve our pity.”

― R.M. Engelhardt, COFFEE ASS BLUES & OTHER POEMS

We do not need to do much to create a better world, all it takes is to understand the simple fact that we are all human and are fighting our own battles behind closed doors and silent pain. Not everything that is portrayed in social media is true, likewise, all user accounts you follow are not their true selves. Stop believing and sharing everything you see in there, for most of them are vain gossips and rumors. For a minute before you like a hate comment about an individual, before you share a message about another person, before you carry a gossip from place to place, remember that this person you are bullying is just another human with emotions, just another daughter/son like you are to your parents and their mental health, their family and reputation matter to them as much as it matters to you. 

If BlueWhale is considered a life-threatening game then every single word or message you use against an individual in social media publicly or privately is a life-threatening challenge you impose on them. 

From hereon, use your social apps for spreading positivity and kindness. Stop using it as a platform to bully and harass people. 

“Replace cyber-bullying with cyber-believing.

Let us build each other up instead of bringing others down. BELIEVE & BUILD”

― Janna Cachola


Featured Image: Photo by Nahel Abdul Hadi on Unsplash

Vocabulary

*Exclusion- The act of leaving someone out deliberately.

*Outing/Doxing- Refers to the act of openly revealing sensitive or personal information about someone without their consent for purposes of embarrassing or humiliating them. This can range from the spreading of personal photos or documents of public figures to sharing an individual’s saved personal messages in an online private group.

*Trickery- Similar to outing, with an added element of deception.

*Cyberstalking- Particularly serious form of cyberbullying that can extend to threats of physical harm to the child being targeted. It can include monitoring, false accusations, threats, and is often accompanied by offline stalking.

*Fraping- a bully uses an individual’s social networking accounts to post inappropriate content with their name.

* Masquerading- Happens when a bully creates a made up profile or identity online with the sole purpose of cyberbullying someone.

*Dissing- The act of a bully spreading cruel information about their target through public posts or private messages to either ruin their reputation or relationships with other people.

*Flaming- Type of online bullying constitutes of posting about or directly sending insults and profanity to their target. 

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