One recent trend in the social media space in Nigeria that has unfortunately started to become a norm is cyberbullying.
Social media bullying, also known as cyberbullying, simply refers to the use of the internet to send text or images with the intention of hurting or embarrassing others. According to the Nigerian Cybercrimes Act of 2015, “cyberstalking” refers to any form of conduct directed to an individual which would cause the said person to feel fear.
In recent times, cyberstalking has found its way beyond social media slander and banter to targeted harassment that goes as far as calling affecting their personal lives.
At a time when the “Me Too” and cancel culture movements have taken a stronghold, the idea of calling people out to take responsibility for their actions has grown even popular. While we have to agree that calling out individuals who have committed crimes and, in some cases, made false allegations about others is a great way to put people in check, the truth, however, is that there is an extra twist that has now been attached to this move.
In this new twist, personal details of said individuals are made available online, including details of their families, friends and employers. This also places people related to them removing any form on anonymity under the impact of this cancel culture and harassment.
Also worthy of note is that this move that had started as a means to bring people under check has now become an instrument of targeted harassment. Nowadays, people are quick to release the personal and contact information of whomever they have an issue with. It is no longer news to see people conduct a full investigation into anyone who doesn’t agree with their posts or who they perceive as having a problem with them with the sole purpose of releasing their findings of them to public knowledge.
This form of targeted harassment is now used as a way to instil fear into others which, if we had to call a spade a spade, is cyberbullying.
The Impact of Cyberbullying on Youths in Nigeria
Research over time has linked depression and suicide to be adverse effects of cyberbullying. In fact, a report by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry associated cyberbullying with depression, substance abuse, suicide and behavioural problems.
In a world where everyone uses social media, the internet can be viewed as a double-edged sword that can be used for entertainment and its anonymity as a tool for targeted harassment.
Reports of suicide from social media bullying are very rampant around the world, Nigeria not being left out. A prime example would be Izu Madubueze, who had committed suicide after being included in a list containing the names of suspected rapists and harassers. Izu, who had already struggled with mental health issues, had committed suicide after not being given an avenue to clear his name, he explained in his suicide video.
Izu is just one of many.
There are several reports of people receiving queries from their employers over controversial tweets and claims, following contact made by others who had a problem with those tweets.
Broke shaming has also found its way into becoming another form of cyberbullying. Here, people are often quick to use their financial situation as well as that of others as tools for harassing them.
How Do We Find A Middle Ground
The reality is that finding a middle ground in cancel culture without escalating it into social media bullying and targeted harassment is very tricky.
A good suggestion would be to consider holding people directly responsible for their actions without harassing them or their acquaintances. How do we do this?
One step would be to stop the trend of releasing personal information online. By doing this, we would be making the first step to keeping people and their acquaintances safe from targeted harassment.
Another step to take is to consider using the law instead of the internet. In this case, rather than take grievances to social media to be handled by your friends or fans, the right step would be to settle in court or out of court using your lawyers.
However, this is not to say that people should not be held responsible for their actions and words, but instead to say that grievances like this should be handled in a much smarter and professional manner.