Social media (examples Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram and other platforms) and digital forums have transformed the world to connect to half of the world by just by the click of a button, but it also led to a rise in anxiety and depression in the form of mental, emotional issues, psychological and physical effects due to Cyber Bullying.
In extreme cases, it may even lead people to commit suicide. This kind of bullying happens via the use of digital technology such as mobile, computer and communicative devices. Cyberbullying in social media refers to uploading or posting derogatory, harmful, spreading false material, rumours and content about another person, organisation or community.
Impersonation, cyberstalking, dissing, flaming, harassing, exclusion, trolling, catfishing, outing and harassment are considered some ways of cyberbullying behaviour. It also includes disclosing private or personal information about others that may cause humiliation.
The objective is to frighten, enrage or shame, guilt, social isolation, depression, loneliness and fear among the individuals who are targeted; these victims become vulnerable on social platforms.
During the course of cyberbullying on social media, it may attract unwelcome attention from the broad spectrum of individuals where many are strangers and many involve in this unethical practice, mostly done anonymously to avoid retaliation or known as “behind-the-scenes bullying”.
They troll in the forums, share inappropriate text or photos, online spread rumour and create panic. One has to accept that cyberbullying has become a terrible reality of today’s world and one has to get aware and tackle it successfully.
Recently examples of cyberbullying include spreading rumours on social media have been buzzing that Fiji’ PM health has deteriorated after undergoing heart surgery at a Melbourne hospital recently (Anthony, RNZ. 4 Feb 2022); Minister of Fiji who has gone for overseas medical treatment, Tiktoker charged with two counts of causing harm by posting electronic communication and granted bail on condition to stay away from social media for 2 weeks. (Nasokia, Fiji Sun, 2 Feb 2022).
Authorities are also making serious efforts to nab these cyber perpetrators and bring them under the ruling of law (Prakash, FBC News, 3 Feb 2022) and Online Safety Bill (2018), with other measures, are in process or being implied.
Australia’s Online Safety Act was passed in July 2021 that has allowed people to report cases of online bullying in the country to the eSafety Commissioner and have a provision that “if the content or post is not removed within 24 hours, a fine of up to 500 penalty units will be applied — for individuals, up to $111,000 and for organisations up to $555,000” (Falor, The Indian Express).
Authorities have repetitively appealed the parents and guardians to be more vigilant to monitor their children online activities on social media, as they are most vulnerable. The unsupervised and unrestricted online activity of the children can land up into problems.
Digital footprint/Online Footprint: Leave trails forever
There are ethics and protocols to behave in social media, but many involve in cyberbullying cross this limit by posting nasty and harmful messages. This behaviour not just ruins the online reputation of the person involved but also put the commenter’s online reputation at stake. These comments become a permanent and public record that is available forever if not reported or erased.
The digital footprint left behind due to cyberbullying is an area of research where scholars analyse the examples of cyberbullying to curb these abuses. These digital footprint trails are created by every single click or post one made leaves its traces online. The post made on social platforms is on the world wide web that possibly remains there forever. As every online user is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address by their Internet service provider, that is unique and register the online sessions. The information of these sessions may be saved with or without the person’s awareness that is using the services.
In social media, safety measures are put in place to review the abusive and bullying behaviour, but better it should be identified immediately and reported in a timely manner. Self-protocols need to be realized before posting anything on social media, it may not hurt the feelings of others. The digital footprints of posting anything would stay online forever and may be used to harm the bullied or cyberbullies. These are shared widely and spread in an uncontrolled manner that has huge ramifications.
Conclusion: Mindful Cyber posting
One has to be responsible for one own deed as it is not possible to ‘undo’ when one post online. Adults and students alike must understand the limitations and obligations that come with living in a digital environment. Authorities have the means to catch cyberbullies by tracing their digital footprints. It is advisable to keep personal information to oneself to avoid the risk of being bullied online. Hence, be mindful when you make a click for your new post. One needs to create a positive online reputation by posting progressive and rational posts to maintain respect among followers and online users.
Author: Dr Sakul Kundra is an assistant professor in history and Acting Head of School, School of Arts and Humanities, College of Humanities and Education, at Fiji National University.