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Hiding behind the screen

NIKHIL VARMA
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Trends Online bullying, especially on social media sites, is turning out to be a huge menace, writes NIKHIL VARMA

Under the garb of anonymity People unleash abuses Photo: Reuters
Under the garb of anonymity People unleash abuses Photo: Reuters

Bullying has mostly been seen as a childhood activity that seldom assumes serious proportions and dies out by the time one finishes school and college. That was before the World Wide Web took over our lives. With people spending most of their time on the net, online bullying has become a new problem that net users are finding difficult to handle. If you do not share the opinion of a majority of the users online, you are liable to be abused on the net and threatened online. Samyukta Prasad, a marketing professional contends, “With social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter containing all information about individuals, it becomes very easy for people to stalk and abuse you on the net.”

She adds: “I had an argument on Facebook with someone I did not know about the latest Shah Rukh Khan controversy. He managed to find the place I work and started to send threatening notes to me. I was scared to step out of my house for a few days. I feel that bullying assumes a new dimension when it is online. People tend to be more vile and abusive when they are in front of a computer screen and not an actual person. The anonymity that the internet provides is often part of the problem.”

Tinu Cherian, a software professional turned digital pr professional says: “The primary reason why people think of bullying online is because they think it is easier to get away with than bullying in person. It becomes really dangerous when cyber-bullying spills over to real life. What if the cyber bully decides to stalk and threaten a person in real life. A wikipedia administrator was forced to rename his account to a pseudo name, because he was threatened.”

City-based social media junkie Jeff Shawn also faced a similar problem. “Some years ago, I had written a story on a website against stray dogs. I got many uncomplimentary comments that soon became abusive. They did not talk about the story or the points that I had raised, but hunted in packs and abused me personally. This was my first experience with online bullies.”

Sudhir Kumar, a Bangalore-based data analyst feels that children in schools and colleges are the biggest victims of cyber bullying. “We seldom notice the many cases of children who lose their self confidence and become withdrawn after being bullied by classmates online. One of my daughter’s classmates refused to go to school after some people posted unsavoury comments about her on an online forum.”

He adds: “Under the garb of anonymity, people tend to become more abusive and evil than in person. I think that a mechanism must be devised that ensures that anonymous accounts are disallowed on social media sites. They serve no purpose other than promoting malice and slander online.

Sushil Sinha, a child psychologist contends, “Cyber bullying is often worse than regular cases of bullying since the victim often is unable to react in a proper manner. Most cyber bullies act in packs which make it more difficult for victims. It is very important that one is vigilant online and does not give out sensitive information on the net. Such precautions should ensure that the impact of cyber bullies comes down.

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