Physical bullying or abuse has always been a part of societal evolutions and over the years, has been the topic of many campaigns by various individuals and organisations with calls for legislation against it. While in many parts of the world, progress has been made, especially as regards awareness and which has lead to a marked reduction in incidences of bullying and violence especially among youths, much still remains to be done. However, one latest trend which has surfaced in the 21st century is a form of bullying in a faceless form called Cyber-bullying. This is a form of assault that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyber-bullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. With billions of people with access to the internet across the planet earth, the world has, indeed become a global village and it has become easier to reach a large number of people with just one sentence online. And so with apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc, one can, from the convenience of one’s room in any part of the word, reach any number of people as long as one is connected.
And so, Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach anyone. Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source. Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent. other, cyberbullied. Bullying through the internet platform can include, posting negative comments on someone’s pictures, posting abusive posts on a user’s wall, using pictures or videos to make fun of another user, among others.
Celebrities and influential people across the world have today, become victims of cyberbullies who attack them on their social media accounts for their actions or inaction. Fans and followers are not the only ones who do this, sometimes artistes or entertainers take on one another on social media whenever they have issues. Recent examples are the cyber feuds between American rapper, 50 cent and colleague, Meek Mill, Jhene Aiko and her Nigerian ex, Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris, Kanye West and Amber Rose/Wiz Khalifa, Freeze and Basket Mouth, among many others.
So bad is this trend that Comedians, Okey Bakassi and Ali Baba, at various times spoke out against the rising trend. Okey Bakassi, in a TV interview had fired a warning to his fellow celebrities vowing to physically confront anyone who attacks him on social media. While speaking on the recent episode of a Hip TV talk show ‘The Gist’, hosted by Emma Ugolee. The Nollywood comic actor, who is known to shield his family from public scrutiny, said: “We live in an organized society, just that sometimes, people are lazy to follow due process.
“For example, where I am now, if you come after me, there are legal processes to follow because if you attack me to hurt me on social media, it is a declaration of war. Since you’ve chosen your platform (social media), I will choose a more ‘civilized’ platform”, Bakassi added.
“Don’t touch my family (wife and children). If you face Okey as a person, no problem with that, I can handle that because it is about me. But when you begin to touch my wife on social media; one, I would not engage you because one thing I look at is the calibre of the person that said such.
“If you are not above me, even if you are my mate, I will not answer you. But if you are above, that means I have a bigger surface to punch. For me, those are the two rules of engagement. If you decide to touch family and you are smaller, if you engage a smaller person on social media, which means you are playing into the arena where he wants you. I am not going to go into that, I am going to wait for you face-to-face. I wouldn’t know the dimension he would take when we finally meet but I would rather sort it out one on one with you.”
Ali Baba had also said during an interaction at a seminar recently that he ‘blocked’ a follower on instagram who posted annoying comments on his (Ali’s) instagram page.
Basket Mouth was also a victim of cyberbullies last week over comments on his social media pages on the current economic crises facing the nation. In a matter of hours, despite issuing an apology after a torrent of abuses and hate mail had piled up on his pages, he was the subject of discussion on most blogs and on twitter. These days, it is common sight to see negative comments, abuses and even curses or threats issued by unknown people to celebrities or average individuals on their private accounts.
According to social media analysts and entertainment critics, while social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment, these same tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar this trend can lead to problems for affected people either health wise or career wise.
Last year, a pop artiste, Skibii, allegedly faked his own death on the heels on his new single, a publicity stunt which he is yet to recover from. His musical career had been negatively affected as most fans and followers vented their frustrations on social media at the badly managed efforts. Shocking, especially, was the fact that some fans were so angry that they wished him ‘dead’ in real life.
Toyin Aimakhu was also a victim recently when her ‘supposed’ support towards raising funds for a sick fan hit the fan. It was alleged at some point that some person (s) were trying to scam the family and Nigerians. The police were called in to investigate and eventually cleared the family of fraud, but by then, much harm had been done. After torrents of hate messages and abuses to the actress and bloggers, who ‘broke’ news, became a topic on cyberspace, with some taking sides to defend or castigate, an obviously distraught Aimakhu had to take time off social media and public life to regain her usually amiable composure.
Countless other entertainers have been victims of cyberbullying. In fact, a responder, Christopher Anyawu said that no celebrity is worth his or her weight if they have not been, at one time or the
Many of the acts of bullying on social media are similar to what they would be in a real-life situation, only in digital form. The impact of the problem is also similar.
Online statistics have shown that vast majority of social media bullying takes places on Facebook because of its open platform and the ability to make open posts or send individuals private messages. In fact, according to a report by the Washington Post, nine out of 10 teen Facebook users have reported they have witnessed bullying on this social media site. A report by Ditch the Label also showed that 54 percent of those surveyed claimed to experience bullying on this same site.
Other social media sites are also becoming the breeding ground for bullying behavior. Twitter doesn’t have as big of a problem as many of the other sites due to the way it is set up. However, Ask.FM has caused serious problems among teenagers, resulting in bullying behavior that has been difficult to stop. SnapChat can also contribute to the bullying problem by creating pictures that make fun of other individuals.
According to Cox. (2014) “Cox 2014 Internet Safety Survey, cyber attacks and feuds occur as 39% on Facebook, 29% on YouTube, 22% on Twitter, 22% on Instagram. Also, teens who report being bullied say it was because of their: 61% appearance, 25% academic achievement/intelligence, 17% race, 15% sexuality, 15% financial status, 11% religion, 20% others.
Another major issue with social media bullying is that it is a constant in the lives of teenagers in particular. Today, you will find just about every teenager is walking around with a smart phone or some form of mobile device, texting friends and enjoying their youth. This constant connection to the world through electronic media creates the platform for constant bullying. Also, if they are constantly connected to the Internet, it can be difficult to get away from social media. This opens the door to a steady stream of negative comments.
The consequences of bullying are many and varied. Even though they are often the same for all types of bullying, it can be useful to understand what could happen if this type of bullying is allowed to continue. One of the most serious consequences is teen suicide. The increase in bullying on social media and other online platforms has caused the instances of teen suicide to rise dramatically because many teens don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with severe bullying. This is the primary reason why it is so important to put a stop to this behaviour.
While suicide is the most serious consequence of these actions, it isn’t the only one. It isn’t even the most common issue. Many teens who are bullied through social media sites exhibit many negative effects. Some of these individuals suffer from self-esteem issues that can last the rest of their lives. They can also experience depression and other mental illnesses. Some of these students may even begin causing physical harm to their bodies. Analysts say that cyber-bullying has serious consequences and must be stopped to protect as many as possible either via legislations or increased awareness.
Dr Kayode Olayode, a clinical psychologist, in his submission said that cyber bullying is a process that usually starts from teen years. Parents allow it to go unpunished because with technology, it is easier to vent out anger or frustrations. He stressed that unless a law is legislated agaist social media abusers, it would continue unabated. He said, ‘while you can be sued for slander you can be sued over social media.
Also worthy of note is the actions by most social media tech owners who have introduced avenues to report abusers or bullies so as to shut down or suspend their accounts.