Think before you type
It all began with ‘roasting’. Being a foodie, ‘roasting’ to me meant only one thing: marinated vegetables, fish, or meat cooked over slow heat to produce a heavenly gastronomical experience. Again, I was wrong! Roasting, as the eighth graders enlightened me, was actually a way of putting down a person with insults couched as humor….a particular favourite of the current brood of keyboard-happy netizens.
Like one thing leads to another, I went into a spree of discovery. As I read, spoke, and listened to the gen z around me, the ugly truth raised its hydra-head. Roasting, stalking, flaming were different avatars of cyberbullying. As the world battled with the lethal virus that traipsed the air we breathe, this silent pandemic has affected the virtual lives of millions of young people who were forced to spend hours before the screen. E-safety commissioners around the world report an increase of 36-50% increase of online abuse in the first three weeks of lockdown. Around 20% of the adolescent and youth population fall victim to this invisible monster. And it has also been noticed that on average only one out of ten victims report their plight.
The tentacles of cyberbullying are strong and far-reaching. Depression, anxiety, social awkwardness, low self-esteem, seclusion, and absenteeism from school and social occasions are common. Taking one’s life is also not unknown.
Now, how can an innocent joke be offensive?
If I call you an ‘elephant’ do you really become one?
Oh! I don’t really think you are ugly…it was a joke…you always overreact da.
Why do you have to be so dumb?
A joke is no longer a joke, it makes someone upset. No one enjoys a negative nickname however endearing and loving it may be. Every word we click on our keyboard leaves a thumb impression on someone’s soul. None of us actually have the right to act funny with someone’s self-esteem…make them feel worthless. But how do we draw a line between humor and insult? It is not rocket science at all…follow a few simple steps.
Step 1: After you type any comment (humorous or otherwise) before pounding on entering…take a step back.
Step 2: Click open a checkbox in your head and ask yourself ‘Is my comment going to upset the receiver? Would I like to be addressed the same way?
Step 3: THINK…..THINK….THINK
Step 4: Take responsibility for your actions and post your comment only if you are sure about it.
We do have our freedom of expression, but not the freedom to abuse and bully others on the internet which the Indian Penal Code considers a punishable offense.
If you are a victim of virtual abuse, your escape route is ‘BLOCK and TALK’. Even if your closest friend upsets or insults you do not have to take it. Block the perpetrator and talk to someone you are comfortable with: a parent, a teacher, a friend, or your school counselor. If you find someone a victim of cyberbullying, lend him/her a patient ear, validate his/her feelings, make them feel comfortable and then seek help. Your patient ear can heal wounds way better than trying to fix things in a hurry.
Hence, we can safely wrap up our three-pronged approach to battle this silent pandemic as ‘think before you type’, ‘block and talk’, and ‘listen and validate’. Be a frontline warrior and promote ethical use of social media.
Let us make an effort to be the compassionate and empathetic friend who lends a helping hand and a patient ear. Not the sarcastic and mean one. Let us not be creatures of darkness but the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
-Priyanka Ghosh, High School English Teacher, Ekya School, JP Nagar