Combating Online Trolling

Do you have an account on social media? If so, then you have most likely seen cyberbullying in action. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. It is becoming more prevalent as the use of social media increases significantly. Many of us have taken part in cyberbullying by sending inappropriate comments, liking hateful pictures and even posting things that did not have good intentions. Others of us have been victims of small acts of cyberbullying. Whether it is a picture of you with hateful words on someone’s Snapchat story, a horrible comment on your TikTok post or a direct message on Instagram from someone you do not know, cyberbullying affects each and every one of us.

The misuse of social media happens all around the world, in every publicly interactive app. It can include the ones we all know like Facebook, SnapChat, Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, etc. It might also include video games like Roblox or Fortnite. Cyberbullying comes in three natures: persistent, permanent and hard to notice. The ability to use social media during all 24 hours of the day often leads to persistent bullying. A victim getting bullied may never be able to catch their breath before another message is sent or another picture is posted. You have all heard the line, “If you put something online, it stays there forever,” and it is true. People keep screenshotting and sending things until hundreds of people have seen it. The internet is permanent in that way. Cyberbullying is also done online, there is no talking necessary and that is why it is rarely noticeable by responsible adults. It is extremely hard to find something online, especially if you do not know who or what you are looking for. Evidence is often scarce.

An internet troll is a person who intentionally upsets others in social media forums. A troll’s actions are called ‘trolling’. Most trolling circumstances occur due to lack of attention. People may have bad intentions or decide that they are bored and want to make someone else feel bad. I know that sounds terrible, but it is true. When we are upset with ourselves, we take it out on other people. While the person sent something hateful and pessimistic, turned their device off and forgot about it, the victim never forgets it. Severe cases of cyberbullying can lead to depression and even suicide. It is a bad place to be in on both sides. The best thing you can do is not get into situations in the first place.

So, if it is such a big deal, what are we doing about it? Every state has rules, laws and policies for anti-bullying. Many schools are required to respond to bullying, especially if it is affecting performance in school. Ohio, for example, has set both a policy and an official law against bullying, while Texas only has a law. A territory of the United States, the Northern Mariana Islands, only has a policy. Even with these rules in place, there is not much that can be done about it. Social media is easily accessible to most of the population.

Next time you decide to open social media, look out for suspicious posts or comments. If you see something like this, immediately exit the page and get away from it. We cannot always do something about it directly, but first make sure that you are protecting yourself.

Sehar Mahesh ’25

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