From the Editor’s Keyboard

Say no to social media bullies

6 November 2018 at 22:59 | 2094 views

By Dr. Nanah Sheriff Fofanah-Sesay, Contributor on Health Issues, USA

It is an undisputed fact that social media has become a very powerful avenue for communication. This is due to its ability to galvanize a huge users’ base.

To illustrate this fact, take the WhatsApp application as an example. It is a powerful tool for communication which attracts millions of users where information can be communicated to millions of other users in seconds.

The purpose of this short narrative is to outline the adverse effects of social media utilization and what users can do to minimize these adverse effects.

According to Hamm et al. (2015), social media has had a profound effect on how individuals interact. While there are many benefits of the use of social media, cyber bullying has emerged as a potential harm, raising questions regarding its influence on mental health.

To put things in perspective, let me outline a few examples of behavior that indicates social media bullying:

- Deliberate use of digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person.

- Sexting or sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, videos, or audios of another person in order to cause embarrassment or shame for that person.

- Insulting messages or messages that degrade another person so that others in the group may think less of the individual.

- Name calling that has a rebound effect of causing shame to another person.

- Vulgar language such as cursing and derogatory remarks on another person is not only an attempt to intimidate, it is outright bullying.

- Humiliation or posting information about embarrassing incidents is another attempt by the bully to humiliate others.

- Mocking or making fun of others’ illnesses, disabilities, or ways of life is another form of social media bullying.

Victims of prolonged cyber-bullying often end up with psycho-social problems such as depression, isolation, loneliness, stress, anxiety, low-self-esteem, and some even become suicidal.

In a recent Ditch the Label study that involved 8,850 respondent about bullying, 1,239 admitted to being bullied. In this study, researchers also asked respondents about their lives, stress level, experience of trauma, home lives, relationships, and how they feel about themselves.

The answers of all 8,50 respondents compared to the answers of those who had never being bullied indicated that those who bullied others at least once and those who bullied others on a daily basis showed these characteristics:

Those who bully others are far more likely than average to have experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in the past five years. Findings also indicate that 66 percent of the people who admitted to bullying somebody else were male. Those who bully others are more likely to have a low self-esteem, moreover, they are more likely to have been bullied themselves. In addition, respondents who have been bullied showed to have a difficult home life, low self-esteem, low access to education, and labile relationships with friends and families.

Albeit these characteristics, bullying on social media is tantamount to serious consequences and victims must be aware of their options. The initial reaction to social media bullying is to identify the behavior. The next reaction is to ask the bully to stop the behavior. If the behavior continues, do not respond to the bully’s messages. The next reaction is to save the evidence in a secure venue and if possible, block the victim. When all else fail, discuss the bully with an authority figure or even law enforcement to ensure that the bully actually exists.

Serious social media bullying is a crime that carries untoward effects to the perpetrator. These effects includes but not limited to monetary fines and sometimes jail time depending on the cause and effect of the behaviors. The victims of social media bullying should never view themselves as “Alice in Wonderland” as there are actual options to ameliorate these narcissistic and disdainful personalities.

In conclusion, socialization is a huge component of human development, in this regards, people should be able to explore and navigate social media without fear of retribution. For those experiencing social media bullying, be aware that justice is available and accessible globally. Stand your grounds and say no to social media bullies.

This article is dedicated to any one experiencing or has experienced social media bullying.