Some net concerns

Some net concerns

Online shaming

Some net concerns

As the online space grows uncontrollably so does the number of bullies; but instead of roaming school corridors they wander the internet in search of prey. It has become custom for internet users to ‘troll’ each other, be it strangers or Facebook friends, while sitting behind the safety of their smartphone or laptop. At first glance, this may seem harmless but because of a lack of online regulation, it can cause psychological trauma in the receiver. This is why people say that good communication skills is important.

Online shaming takes bullying to a new level where groups of people gang up against a person. This mob mentality has serious repercussions as it can turn aggressive and quickly. So, while the internet allows for everyone to express their opinions, it also tends to act as a trap for those who aren’t the norm. Activist Harish Iyer says it took him a while to get used to the ‘trolls’. “But now I’ve become immune to them.

The last time I got trolled was when my mom put up a matrimonial advertisement, and the line ‘Caste no bar (though Iyer preferred)’ caught a lot of attention.” This is where Harish makes a distinction between trolls made by strangers and those by people in his friends circle. “I’ve received mails that are outright homophobic; I still get them. But I’ve learnt to just ignore them because it comes with being active on the internet. What’s harder to deal with are the comments made by people you know, when they gang up instead of discussing the problem.”

But since the internet is a free space, where does one draw the line; at what point does sharing opinions or arguing become bullying? Akhil Kodamanchili, a musician, says he trolls people but elaborates, “I pick posts that are either ignorant or riddled with logical fallacies, and typically pertain to something relevant. Bullying is when you are ‘trolling’ from a place of ignorance or prejudice yourself, while actual trolling needs to be witty, smart, enjoyable and ideally, leading to growth. This is why I troll only if I have a better understanding on the subject in question.”

Harish agrees with Akhil in that trolling or putting your opinions on the internet is a matter of good communication. “It’s okay to disagree with a view but one should share their opinions with some decency and consideration to etiquette,” he says. Akhil adds, “Good communication skills is what separates you from sounding like a closet misogynistic douche as opposed to someone who is mocking intelligibly.”

While some trolls come from a place of ignorance and fly solo, others can be organised and malicious. “Even the so-called educated people use trolling as a way to showcase their intellectual superiority. They pick and analyse every word you say,” says Harish. This deliberate attempt to find fault in everything is one of the most common forms of online bullying.

And one need not be a public figure to be trolled. Adwait Pawar, a graphic designer, narrates an incident that took place a while back. “I posted a status message on Facebook about how we have become desensitised to the word ‘rape’ and a friend made a sexist comment that didn’t even relate to the post. I felt sorry for him, his narrow mindedness and lack of empathy.” he says.

So, although it is hard to not get trolled when one is active online, there is a certain line that distinguishes between it and outright bullying. While the former is harmless and can easily be ignore, the latter can send shivers down the spine.