“The lockdown has compelled me, like so many others, to begin spending more time on the Internet, both engaging with and creating content. And this has directly led me into the space of excessive Internet scrutiny. How do I protect myself online while still being able to express myself freely?”
Dear Kool Kanya,
The recent #boislockerroom fiasco may have sparked a much needed debate at the national and state level. At the personal level however, it has led me to mull over all those times I felt unsafe and attacked on the Internet and how I just let that feeling pass by as a seemingly inconspicuous moment. And I have come to realise that this assumed harmlessness is perhaps the root cause of this problem.
There have been so many instances in my life on social media where I’ve found myself in space that seems to warrant scrutiny by people. Things as simple as expressing a personal experience seemed to trigger and offend, leading to vicious digs at my failed intellectual incompetence.
On more occasions than one I have been body shamed for posting “inappropriate” pictures. I have been viciously attacked and called a “feminazi” on countless comment threads.
Not to mention the violent and rather threatening activities I’d be subjected to if it weren’t for the fickleness of social media judges.
Having said that, I am still a major proponent of the fact that these difficult conversations are important. And they need to be spoken about, engaged with and made popular.
So how do I manage to continue expressing freely without becoming the subject of public shame and humiliation?
First off, massive respect for believing in the need to open up difficult conversations and persisting on this difficult journey regardless of Internet trolls.
As you correctly summarised in your question, the problem indeed lies in how easily we let casual sexism on the Internet slide by us. There are innumerable meme pages that create misogynistic memes, create jokes at the expense of a whole gender and severely contribute to this culture of casual sexism.
Even in our own family Whatsapp group chats, how many times do we actually call out that uncleji when he shares his problematic wife jokes. Or that auntyji when she slyly comments on the slight weight you put on, those freckles on your skin or even all that weight you lost and the difficulty you’ll have in birthing your future child.
If charity begins at home, so does casual sexism. The #boislockerroom incident is a testament to the unaccounted for consequences of this inherent unquestioned misogyny. Else how do a bunch of young boys manage to learn all about those seemingly explicit profanities?
So here are a few of the ways in which you can be cyber safe.
Do not respond
Since all that the Internet trolls are looking for is a reaction, it’s best to not give them one. Reacting, retaliating or engaging with them gives them the power over you and by not responding is how you curb their power. Remove yourself from the space of letting someone have the power to bully you.
If the problem persists, don’t hesitate to consult cyber crime lawyers and other law enforcement agencies for your protection.
Take screenshots for evidence
In cases of cyberbullying, the only advantage for the victim is that they’re able to capture and safeguard the evidence of their bullying. It’s especially significant to keep evidence of cyberbullying like your messages, posts, comments, etc. This makes the process of contacting cyber authorities a whole lot easier.
With the state of Maharashtra and several others beginning to work towards creating plans for women’s cyber safety, the social media platforms too, are doing their part.
Report abuse on the platform itself
So the second step in this journey is to make use of these laws to further a more woke society. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and several others have the option of reporting abuse or violent comments and posts. It’s time we put those features to use.
If there’s something particularly disturbing about a thread, send in a detailed description to the concerned platform about it. Many websites have a no-tolerance policy and if you complain against them they’ll surely take it down.
Most social media apps provide the option of either reporting a person or blocking a person who has been harassing you. This might not end the problem instantly but when the bully finds out that he has been blocked or reported, they might end it.
Reach out for help
When things get out of hand and the bully isn’t backing down, reach out to the best cyber crime lawyers for help. They will not only advise you but will help you in the entire procedure of getting out of the situation of cyberbullying.
Protect your passwords
As cliched and repetitive as it sounds, it is a significant step in feeling cyber safe. Don’t share your credentials on the Internet, even to your closest friends. Keeping your phone password protected too is important to restrict somebody from snooping into your private data.
Find your support system
Lastly, there’s nothing more encouraging than support. Keep your trolls close, but your support system closer.
Find pages, online communities and networks that propagate the idea of building a safe space for women. Keep your own girl gang, your cheering squad close enough for you to be able to tag and involve them in discussions where you simply cannot let go of the need to reason with your internet troll.
Remember, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. What one woman can do alone, several can do better.
The Kool Kanya Community is one such safe space. Be a part of a network that supports and builds women, helps empower them to rise up to casual sexism and more. Where women can raise their power, and in turn help the women around them raise theirs’. Because empowered women, empower women.
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