Cyber bullying or harassment is done using online tools. This is the harassment that happens using 21st century online tools, most especially the social media. In the wake of global takeover of teenage and young adults’ conversations by social media apps, more young people have used the tool to ridicule and harass others. Of course, we all know the positive side of the tools cannot be overemphasized.
Bringing in emotional intelligence into this piece would help us to better understand why people would choose to make fun of people, who they have never met in their life. Emotional intelligence talks about the ability of a person to master his feelings and learn how to apply these feelings in dealing with other people. A strong pointer of a high level of emotional intelligence is a person with deep empathy. Cyber bullies, from global research have shown to have very less levels of empathy towards other people on the internet.
The Nigerian millennial is not left out of this global cankerworm that has eaten deep into our society. For instance, on the micro blogging social site called Twitter, many young Nigerians have taken to insulting and bullying people as a new way of showing off their superior intellectual abilities.
A report by the DQ Institute has alarmingly revealed that 54 per cent of Nigerian children between the ages of 8 and 12 years are exposed to one or more types of cyber risks. In an older age range, millennial young adults prefer to post comments and not create their own original content on their social media pages because of what people would say.
Everyday across the globe, we read reports of people who suddenly committed suicide because they couldn’t withstand the harsh comments of random people on their online pictures and posts. Many others even go as far as telling the victims to go and kill themselves. And when they finally do, same people would post their pictures and insult them for taking their own life.
A very disturbing trend about online bullying is that it can be perpetrated by people who you have never met and may never meet in your life. In the course of writing this article, I spoke to 4 people to sample their opinion on the subject matter of cyber bullying. Surprisingly, many of them saw it as having fun and laughing away their stress. Only this time, they are doing it at the expense of someone else.
I have had my own fair share of cyber bullying at different times. As a social media influencer who spends a greater part of his time on the online media, I have had course to put out pictures and content that some people felt it didn’t go down well with them. Instead of appraising the content, they descended heavily on my person and poured aspersions on me. The words were very mean and at some point, my family were scared how I was coping with such words.
This is where emotional intelligence comes in.
How best can one manage these comments? First, you need to understand that those who say these things are suffering from a personality issue or one form of depression or another. This is true. No person who is entirely confident and has a high level of emotional intelligence goes about the internet, insulting people. So always have it at the back of your mind that the problem is with them, not you.
Having realized this fact, you need to objectively analyze your content and ignore the comments. Many times, I ignore reading or viewing comments. I also don’t allow people to call me and tell me to go and read what others are saying about me on an online platform. Ignoring those words help a lot.
Increasingly, the need for the Nigerian Legislature both at the federal and state levels to pass a law that will criminalize cyber bullying is apt at the moment. People need to realize that they can’t cyber bully people and go scout free.
The judiciary also needs to step in immediately the legal machineries are put in place to encourage more people to seek legal aid once they are cyber bullied. Both emotional and legal support should be prioritized so people can understand the need to be kind with words while exchanging their thoughts and views on divergent matters online.
While this process may take some time in becoming a reality and providing good online experience for young Nigerians, I hope more young people will understand that cyber bullying others have grave consequences, especially on the victim.
Martin Beck Nworah is an ICT Lawyer, social media influencer and content creator based in Lagos State, Nigeria.