Cyber Bullying Must Fall….

Lifestyle Top Stories Zimbabwe

Hanganani Nleya

As top ten prettiest girls in Bulawayo video sparks debate…

As Zimbabweans continue to live under lockdown, demand for online user generated content has been on the increase as most viewers nowadays are seeking entertainment formats that they feel they identify with. Social media platforms have enabled the growth of user generated content as one can simply use their mobile phone to record and post content on these platforms but this has openly left the would be entertainers at the mercy of audiences’ for criticism or in some cases praises.

For some the internet has unearthed a lot of talent and some can testify that the recently held Bulawayo Arts Festival and other online based concerts have given artistes a chance to shine.

During lockdown, the scourge of cyber bullying has undeniably entrenched itself in our communities. Celebrities and ordinary citizens, male or female have not been spared.

Some members of a Bulawayo based dance groups, the Megatronz, recently posted a video captioned “Top 10 prettiest girls in Bulawayo” on their YouTube platform. The video has since gone viral and eclipsed all their other videos in terms of views.

As known by many, beauty is a subjective term and as such, as one goes through the comments on the video on YouTube as well as on micro blogging site, Twitter one cannot help but notice that it was received with mixed reactions. Some were in agreement with the grading system used by those who made the video while some were against this list arguing that it was a form of degrading women through objectifying them.

As the debates raged on who should have been and not have been on the list, a young lady who appears in the list was subjected to more scrutiny than others. A young lady identified as Nompue in the video was been subject to much debate with some arguing that she doesn’t deserve to be on the list which she did not ask to be put on in the first place.

Some went to the extent of creating sadistic jokes portraying Nompue as having committed suicide. When bullying happens online it can feel as if you’re being attacked everywhere, even inside your own home. It can seem like there’s no escape. The effects can last a long time and affect a person in many ways.

All friends joke around with each other, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is just having fun or trying to hurt you, especially online. Sometimes they’ll laugh it off with a “just kidding,” or with an emoji.  If one however feels hurt or thinks others are laughing at them instead of with them, then the joke has gone too far.

The feeling of being laughed at or harassed by others can prevent people from speaking up or trying to deal with the problem. In extreme cases, cyber bulling can even lead to people taking their own lives. 

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), cyber bullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms and gaming platforms. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. It comes in many forms but the most common include the spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos of someone on social media, sending hurtful messages or threats via messaging platforms or impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf. 

Bulisile Mguni, a content creator said “cyber bullying has a far reaching negative impact. People react differently to bullying it may affect one mentally and emotionally.”

“Many are guilty and sometimes recklessly fuel it without noticing, but one should picture it happening to themselves or those close to them to understand why it is uncalled for,” added Mguni.

Unknown by many, when bulling takes place online, it usually results in unwanted attention from a wide range of people including strangers. Wherever it may happen, if you are not happy about it, you should not have to stand for it.

Face-to-face bulling and cyber bullying can often happen alongside each other, cyber bullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.

If one experiences cyber bullying, deleting certain apps or staying offline for a while to recover may seem to be one of the best options. Getting off the Internet is not a long-term solution though, particularly when one knows they did nothing wrong, so why should they be disadvantaged? It may even send the bullies the wrong signal — encouraging their unacceptable behaviour. Another solution to avoid negative energy on social media platforms is reporting the perpetrator(s). On most social media platforms, people aren’t notified when you block, mute, restrict or report them. This is a useful tool that can help one survive onslaughts from keyboard warriors who find pleasure in one’s pain whilst hiding behind hash tags.

We all want cyber bullying to stop, which is why reporting cyber bullying is so important. No one is safe on these social media platforms as we have seen ordinary folks to popular socialites being attacked on these platforms. Everyone has a role to play in creating the Internet we want goes beyond calling out bullying. We need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others.

Stopping cyber bullying is not just about calling out bullies; it’s also about recognising that everyone deserves respect – online and in real life. Cyber bullying can affect us in many ways, but it can be overcome and people can regain their confidence and health.