Rising Cases Of Online Bullying Amid Lockdown

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Javeid Hassan Malik

LOCKDOWN is nothing new in this part of the universe as we have been facing this misery of lockdown from times immemorial. What makes this Covid19 lockdown dissimilar from rest of the lockdowns we experienced before is that for the first time in history we have technology called internet by our side amid restrictions. In absence of  internet, how caged residents of Kashmir dealt with daily life post August 05 is a long story that needs to be reserved for another day.

Coming to current state of affairs when we have been accorded with so called privilege of 2G internet that too after much pleading I will discuss how we are using this as tool for good and wicked purposes here.

Internet has broad contours, but due to global outreach of social networking, internets definition has remained confined mainly to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Thus, one can conclude internet is synonymous to social networking sites. Current era is considered as the age of social networking. Cell phone has become the natural extension of our hand. We are surrounded by small and big blinking screens and we often feel nomophobia  if we keep our mobile aside just for few minutes. Thus it has become essential part of our existence.

Covid19 is setting standards of new normal everything is going online from education to shopping to work from home. In this rat race of online business invisible criminals are not far behind. They too have resorted to online crimes to make our life more miserable.

Amid social distancing, social networking is acting like a safety valve to pour our repressed thoughts, anger and frustration online, but in doing so we often tend to cross the line by getting into someone’s nerves to frustrate them too. It is no secret that fake accounts on social networking sites outnumber genuine ones. Male disguises as female, old disguises as young, married as unmarried or in nutshell one can’t differentiate chalk from cheese on SNS. What is alarming in these stressful times is the sudden spike in  the cases of online bullying and victims who are facing the brunt of it are the youth especially girls in the age group of 16 to 25. In layman’s definition online bullying can be any online communication which is aimed at making  feel person at the receiving end uncomfortable. It can be in the form of life threats, inappropriate pictures, sexual abuses or emotional blackmailing. Often cybercrime remain unnoticed as victims tend to hide them under the carpet due to societal and parental pressure. Few weeks back my protégé narrated me her ordeal of suffering online bullying silently. How she has developed suicidal tendencies to end her miseries once for all, I will try to narrate her torment verbatim here.

She re-counts: “Two years back when I got selected on scholarship for master’s program in one the leading university located in New Delhi, I couldn’t resist the temptation of sharing the news of my selection with my friends on Facebook as it was no less than a Eureka moment for me. The notification, I had shared casually carried not only my name but to my bad luck it also carried my contact details. I hadn’t thought in my wildest of dreams that my casual upload on Facebook will return to me in the form of  untamed monster to rob me of  long awaited short lived joy. Hardly an hour had passed I began to receive calls and obscene messages from unknown numbers. First I thought it was normal but I was wrong as it didn’t stop, there. My cell phone kept on beeping with caller tune and abusive text messages, even after switching off my phone for hours. Calls kept on coming and registering complaint with cyber police was not an option as  it wasn’t one number but  hundreds of anonymous numbers. Finally, I had to sacrifice my contact number for safety, but traffic of obscenity then shifted to emails and this too had to suffer a same fate as my phone number. Year later one of my all-weather friends told me that he had noticed my number being shared and advertised on adult content pages. Who did that remains mystery till now?”

She continues, “two months later, when I landed in capital to start my master’s programme, first time I had to share bench with students of different faiths. Just for acceptance I had to do as the Romans do so as to feel safe and secure among strangers. I had reserved my company to select lot and kept my contacts secret so as not to suffer previous ordeal again. Then one day, administration issued a notification to submit our WhatsApp numbers for creation of batch WhatsApp group. I hesitated as nightmares of previous ordeal were still haunting me. It was like once bitten twice shy moment for me. I hesitated but I couldn’t reject. Everything was going hunky dory till we were made to vacate our hostels due to Covid19. Back home, I began to notice something contrary from routine in group chatting. Informal language, derogatory and abusive language had taken over. So I exited the group in protest. Hardly a day had passed I began to receive messages on my personal number all the abusive content had got diverted from group to my inbox. One of the guys, who till yesterday was calling me as sister began to ask me for my hand. My eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How quickly man can turn into monster. I rejected his offer and blocked him everywhere, but he still didn’t stop. Few days ago I saw his message on my Dad’s number. Where from he got his number remains mystery”.

While I am writing this piece, I can see her frustration reflected in her WhatsApp status which reads, “death, come quickly I’m waiting”. This is just one case. I am sure thousands of girls are suffering due to online bullying silently. Menace of online bullying needs to be countered, for this our institutions should have privacy rules to prevent open access of the privacy contacts of students. Also universities should avoid uploading personal information on websites or  creating unnecessary WhatsApp groups which may allow such bullying.

 

 

 

 

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