Chisom Winifred: Is Cyber Bullying Becoming a Culture?


Have you ever had to deal with a bully? Most of us have, at one time or another. It may have been at school or in the workplace, or it may even have occurred right at home where abuse of power is played out with alarming frequency these days.

What exactly constitutes bullying? It is not quite the same as harassment or assault. It tends to involve many small incidents that accumulate over time rather than a single incident or a few of them.

Perhaps no single definition covers all the aspects of bullying, but it has been called “a wilful, conscious desire to hurt another and put him or her under stress”. The stress is created not only by what actually happens but also by fear of what might happen. Tactics may include harsh comments, teasing, constant criticism, insults, gossips and unreasonable demands.

We seem to have transcended to a place where harsh comments and hate speech is almost normal. Verbal abuse has become more imminent especially on social media. Abuse, whether physical or verbal, has indelible effects on a person’s psychology. We’ve even gone a step further to add creativity and flair. Especially on Twitter, users creatively abuse and engage in sometimes, extreme forms of hate speech. I recall one time the hash tag #Fineyourubatwitter was trending and everyone was sharing a photo of themselves using the hash tag. It was fun until someone tweeted in response to a guy’s photo telling him that he looked like N100 Amala. No one seemed to find the comment offensive or demeaning; it was so funny it got a lot of retweets. How can you say someone looks like Amala hundred naira, what manner of creative wickedness is that?

I once also, saw a short film on cyber bullying. A teenager went to a party and smoked something she shouldn’t have, she ended up taking off her clothes and her party partners went live on Instagram to report the incident as opposed to the more farfetched idea of helping her. The girl the next day was so astonished by the gravity of her actions that she developed social anxiety and became depressed. She refused to go out; her feed on social media was flooded with her nude photos from several blogs. She became a hermit, deleted all her accounts, broke her sim cards and refused to see anyone. One morning, three days later, she drowned herself in her bathtub.

Psychologists assert that bullying results in an upgrade of confidence, thinking the control is on the hands of the bully. To some, it makes them feel powerful, a way to boost their ego and perceived online popularity, some others do it to prove they’re not weak. To some people attention is what they really crave. There is a chance they do not gain it from their family; most are starving for the recognition of being powerful figures.
One mental health professional comments: “It is a sad but common aspect of human dynamic”. Bullying however may lead to violent retaliation. The example has been given of colleagues who continually bullied a man in the United States who had a speech impediment. He was teased and bullied so much that he finally killed four of his co-workers and then shot himself.

More subtle names like “clap-backs,” “shade” and “savagery” has been used to mask bullying. When we give a savage clap back on social media, do we ever stop to think the effects our words will have on the other person? Sometimes being victims of bullying makes us think harassing other people is only something natural as some people deserve to be bullied.
Celebrities and public figures are at the worst end of this. You see people unashamedly bashing, judging and criticizing them online, saying things that if said to them, will bring them down for the rest of the day or even beyond.

Cyber bullying has proven to be a major cause of depression especially amongst youths. No type of bullying should be tolerated and it’s important to protect yourself from it. Ignore the bully when you can, cut ‘em off, and stay offline should need be.

Photo CreditDreamstime

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