The social media can be a wonderful thing. It gives people a platform to express their thoughts on any subject in the universe. It enables conversations, debates and discussions. With a click of the mouse or a tap of the screen, we can share our ideas and opinions, and invite others to share theirs. People are connected round the clock and they are within clicking distance of any information they need. Indeed, social media is a boon for humanity, for it encourages people to express themselves and open their minds to new information constantly.
However, even something so promising is not without a flipside. The world today is full of people who use social media platforms to spread negativity and hate. Granted, not all thoughts that one shares on the internet need to be positive. But when negativity and hate are targeted at individuals who mean no harm, there arises a problem. Cyber-bullying, as it is commonly referred to, occurs when someone posts a barrage of comments intended to silence, hurt or threaten someone.
Celebrities, bloggers and opinion leaders on social media often experience this phenomenon. People who criticise their work or life choices sometimes tend to go overboard and make personal comments. One post often leads to a hundred such posts and in no time, it turns into a ‘hashtag’ and begins to ‘trend’. However, it is not just the big shots who find themselves at the receiving end of such bullying. Common people too suffer when they post thoughts that some may perceive as controversial.
The worst thing about cyber-bullying is that it often translates to fear, anxiety and mental health issues in the targeted individual. While some live in a state of constant distress, some even go to the extent of killing themselves to escape the bullying. The internet is full of stories in which common people and celebrities alike have succumbed to this!
It is indeed unsettling that a complete stranger can hide behind a screen and send someone so much hatred that they decide to end their lives. The anonymity that social media offers is a double-edged sword. While it protects some people from harassment, it enables some to cause harm without consequence. It helps one say things one might never say in real life to real people.
Even the most educated and civilised of us can get carried away while posting our opinions, or responses to an argument. Words are powerful, and we do not know how the other person might react to something hurtful we could accidentally blurt out.
However, hard as it might be to accept, cyber-bullies are almost never hardened criminals. They are mostly ordinary people who simply vent their frustrations on strangers online. This calls for each of us to examine our own behaviour on social media. Most of us may have, at one point or another, engaged in a heated discussion with someone on Facebook or Twitter. What do we say when we find the other person’s comments offensive to our sentiments or worldview? How do we respond to being proven wrong? Do we feel the need to make personal comments? Do we resort to passive-aggressive jibes?
Even the most educated and civilised of us can get carried away while posting our opinions, or responses to an argument. Words are powerful, and we do not know how the other person might react to something hurtful we could accidentally blurt out. Moreover, there’s no telling what kind of people our posts might end up reaching. It is, therefore, our responsibility to always watch what we say to those on the other side of the screen.
So, the next time you find yourself about to post something on social media, think if what you’re saying might upset someone. Is it worth it? If yes, go ahead. If not, hit backspace. Opinions can indeed be tricky and someone or the other is often upset by what we say. The key is to challenge ideas and not the individuals. Needless to say, steer clear of comments or remarks of personal nature. And know when to walk away from a war of words. After all, no argument is worth winning at the cost of someone’s feelings and mental health.