Opinion: How to deal with social media harassment

by Mercy Makinde

Trolls, clap-back, shades are a few of the words I have picked up from episodes of social media harassment and bullying I have seen.

It really bothers me why people find so much delight in paying a lot of attention to other people’s problem with all the issues plaguing us in this country.

Perhaps, if our youth direct the kind of energy and dexterity they expend in harassing and bullying people online to doing other positive things, like researching on how to spot opportunities in the midst of challenges, this country would be a better place and their lives would so flourish that they won’t have time to spew out negativity on people they know nothing about.

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Rather than use social media to connect and network to their benefit and improve their lives, our youth today and sadly some supposed adult body sized humans with infantile idiosyncrasies and juvenile tendencies have decided to use it to monitor, stalk, judge, condemn and sentence people to an imprisonment of their twisted opinions.

People now see social Media as a platform to have an opinion in other people’s personal lives, an avenue to insult people they would never be able to look them eye ball to eye ball, a veil where they can hide behind and castigate people under a false identity, a kingdom where everyone is equal and no one is deserving of respect regardless of their age… the colony of the Periwinkle where everyone wears a cap.

This is shameful and sad when I think of how many lives can be transformed if this same medium is put to positive use! Who social media bullying and harassment don epp abeg?

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Perhaps we should start by defining what social media harassment and bullying is? It is posting unwelcome comments, creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive cyber environment, violating an individual’s dignity, calling someone names, making threatening comments, posting offensive pictures or graffiti, creating an abusive troll of comments, poking fun at someone or verbally abusing or insulting someone particularly when it relates to their personal lives.

No decent human should do this to his/her fellow human. Some pretend to do it under the guise of correcting or advising the person like in the case of a young lady telling an elderly woman old enough to be her mum that her make up was ugly! As noble as her intentions may seem, the channel of communication was totally wrong and completely defeated the seemingly good intentions she may have had. There is a reason why all social media platforms have inbox or or direct messages… use them.

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Are you a victim of Social Media harassment and Bullying? Know this that Bullying often is a criminal offense. Report it.

Yes, you can report bullying of any form to the owners of the handle and the bully’s account will be treated accordingly or you report to the local authorities. We saw this happen recently in the case of a blogger and a musician.

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What else can you do to protect yourself from social media harassment? Find a few tips below:

Instagram for example is a window into your life and the lives of your friends. Unfortunately, ill-intentioned users have greatly misused this photo-sharing social network and it has become the most abused social media platform for intimidating and harassing people, especially women.

Even spousal and marital issues are now being tried on “Instagram Tribunal” by Instagram followers who have constituted themselves Judge and Jury in the lives and cases of people they have never seen in their entire lives and may never see except on Instagram, blogs and TV.

Some have become Parenting Experts and Marriage Counselors even when they can’t even boast of a consistent boyfriend let alone a husband and child. All thanks to Social media that gives them the privilege of direct access to the personal lives of others.

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With this in mind, Instagram offers a few ways to deal with cyber bullying on its app as it has a Zero Tolerance policy for cyber bullying and harassment. If you are being harassed on Instagram, Your first option for reporting abuse or bullying is to fill out a form on Instagram’s web site. Alternatively, you can report abuse within the app by Tapping the ellipses (“…”) at the top right hand corner of a photo, select report, Choose “Harassment or bullying” from the list. You can report an account through the same process too! So if you know any account deliberately created to haunt and taunt people, kindly report such account to Instagram immediately. Verbally attacking them is not enough. Report it.

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In extreme cases of libel and outright reputation deformation and character assassination via cyber-bullying and online harassment, a CIVIL ACTION is one sure way of seeking redress.

Oh yes, you can file a lawsuit in severe circumstances that or a post or comment creates interference in your business and relationships, obstructs your brand or means of livelihood, strains your family relationship, inflicts emotional or psychological distress, or a false statements that harms your reputation.

There are a number of other possible claims. All you need is a good lawyer who will determine the most appropriate course of action when filing a lawsuit and help you with your case, so you can sue for damages and recover more than you will spend on your legal fees. Perhaps when people get served a taste of their bitter pills in the form of a litigation, there would be a bit more sanity in the cyber space.

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Other tips you may want to consider include:

1. Don’t post everything about your private life.

2. Don’t give the public more information than necessary.

3. If you are not necessarily doing any business with your account use the Privacy settings to control those that have access to your information.

4.  Do not react: Bullies feed off the target’s reactions

5. Avoid controversial and sentimental posts/remarks particularly if you are a public figure. Learn to respect yourself.

6. Do not feel the need to comment and remark on every given issue. People will be waiting for your own day to comment and remark on issues affecting you too.

7. Don’t flaunt anything that could create a controversy with respect to your peculiar circumstances.

8. Before you post ask yourself, “Is this really necessary?”

9. Do not respond to every attack. Sometimes silence is golden and it spells maturity. But if you must respond do not come down to the level of the attacker. Let your response show class and intellect.

10. Delete any post stirring up negative comments and troll even if you posted with all good intent and purpose. There is no use leaving it to prove a point.

11. Do not cast the first stone. Make a deliberate effort to stay away from trouble waters and controversies.

If you are not a victim, are you an abuser? Do you aid and abet social media harassment and bullying? Have you ever considered the fact that Internet never forgets? What if for whatever reasons, in the future your post or comments are called up? Would it be something you would be proud of?

Would your spouse, children, In-laws, employers, employees or friends be proud of you when they read such? Be careful what you post today so it does not come back to haunt and embarrass you tomorrow. Life is too short and really… IT’S A SMALL WORLD…Tomorrow, you never know where you will meet or need someone who are harassing on social media today.

Social Media abuse has not added one cubit to anyone’s life span. Neither has anyone won a prize for being the best at it! Nor does it make you better than the person you are harassing. So, resolve in your hearts today not to post anything that will hurt your fellow humans. Always ask yourself, “if someone should put up this same post or comment I am about to make about me would I appreciate it? Will I be happy?”, If your answer is No, then don’t post it.

Please think before you post or comment because what goes around comes around. One day, e fit be you. You could very well be the one in the eye of the storm and as you have measured out to others so will it be measured out to you.

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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Follow Mercy Makinde on her blog here

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