While today’s world of social media has made communication easier, with a proliferation of platforms meeting different needs and purposes, it has always been blighted by a dark side: cyber bullying. This is nothing new. On Reddit, it’s of rabid proportions to the extent that an anti-harassment policy had to be set up to curb it.
Elsewhere, Twitter for example, harassment is commonplace. People cyber bully for different reasons, from insecurities, low self-esteem, jealousy, anger to simply for sadistic fun. It’s also a tactic employed by right-wing oppressive groups to distort or suppress information. There’s doxxing too.
While it’s common for everyone to have experienced some form of bullying or harassment in digital spaces, the experience is different for women as it is a continuum of the systemic oppression they have been facing even before the creation of social media. The digital environment can be such a hostile place for women to express themselves as they have to combat sexism and misogyny. Not to mention the policing of their bodies or daring to hold an opinion that doesn’t center the male gaze.
These days, the harassment of women who reside in Nigeria don’t come from just a random account. Instead, it comes as a mass, coordinated attack. There’s an ego trip men derive from taunting a woman and she seeing her writhe powerlessly and helplessly. Harassing in droves is now a staple embedded in Twitter, and while one can simply use the block feature, it doesn’t interrogate the actions of bullying.
Last week saw women intending to boycott Twitter to draw attention to increased digital hostility, abuse, and harassment against women. #Stop TwitterHarassment was the hashtag, and in Nigeria, women like Moechivious spearheaded the campaign and called on allies for support. Mochievous, who was reintroduced to the public during the peak of #ENDSARS protests and facilitating the release of detained protesters, has repeatedly endured bullying when her opinions don’t align with the larger public.
Unsurprisingly, what met the protests was even more harassment and bullying from men. The harassment on social women in the way that affects women is only a reflection of the physical harassment they experience, which ranges from catcalling, indecent touching, and so on. Until social attitudes start to shift in tackling patriarchy, women will continue to experience cyber bullying on social media platforms.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.