What is it like to grow up in a modern society today? I could guess that it is not all pleasant, especially on social media forums such as Facebook. How is your experience? How do you feel when you are trolled in public, for whatever reasons? How will you react when you are publicly condemned? Can you see any similarity between bullying and public shame on social media? Can you define someone based on just one unintentional thing they have said or done?
In this short write-up, I wish to argue that as a society on social media we are becoming less sensitive towards women in public and that such public shaming has produced more hatred and disharmony than kindness and care.
We have seen many women and girls being trolled and judged because of either their crime or unusual statements they have produced or passed on. In this pandemic time, there were some cases registered on online shaming. Recently it was reported that a 22-year-old Nepali girl named Neha Giri was arrested by the New South Wales (NSW) police for committing fraud against an elderly Australian citizen. She was trolled by so many people and her social media was filled with bad comments and abuses.
Another case was also headlined that a woman named Mina Shrestha from Morang was arrested on the charge of murdering her own husband so as to save her illicit extramarital affair. Her social media was littered with bad comments and abuses.
This people were punished for their sins but due to online shaming there are some innocent people who are also defamed and harassed publicly. Not only normal citizens but recently Nepali actresses were also the victims of dozens of posts reflecting hatred, abusive words and phrases. They have been trolled in every possible ways. Even though they apologized for their wrong statements, people didn’t spare them.
Women are shamed by both men and other women and this is a sort of unspoken pandemic. It is unfortunate that social media has given people the ability to target not just powerful public figures but anyone that has done something wrong.
When a woman is shamed online, what is very shocking is that her entire womanhood is mocked. In fact, it is easy to take down a stranger online and much easy if the stranger is a female.
Majority of the social media post shows the patriarchal face of the society that is always ready to harass women. The saddest thing about harassing women is that it doesn’t always come from men. Mostly there are also women who hate other women and feel no shame in abusing them.
A woman is targeted online if she says something offensive but the fact is that those who attack her vomit much worse than she did. Let me give an example, I was watching a Ted Talk of Jon Ron son (How one tweet can ruin your life) who says “Women always have it worse than men. When a man gets shamed it is-I am going to get you fired. But when a woman gets shamed it is- I am going to get you fired and raped”. So, women are always an easy object as target for public shaming.
In patriarchal societies across cultures, women are more prone to sexual abuse, threats and shaming compared to men because it is easy to destroy the life of a woman. When a woman is trolled online her parents are questioned for giving birth to her, her husband is mocked for marrying someone like her. The entire family of that women, her friends, her career, her life – in fact everything is questioned and poisoned through the tweets and comments about her.
Recently, a girl wearing a backless dress was pictured on the backseat of a government-registered motorcycle. What was wrong with that? Nothing. But male eyes on social media could not tolerate that and did all the possible they could do to abuse her online. This is just an example out of so many such instances every day.
As the internet becomes an increasingly important part of human lives and a platform for public to make their voices heard, it is a growing difficulty for people to protect their freedom from online harassment. It is a kind of obstruction to their freedom. The majority of people who harass other person online is actually a stranger and has no idea about the person being shamed or trolled. So they bring out their anger and frustration to attack an easy person available for free in public shaming. Quite surprisingly and sadly, they feel justified in sharing the photos/videos, commenting bad stuff, showing inappropriate behavior.
One could argue that online shaming happens virtually, but that doesn’t mean that it is any less real to the one going through it. Then, do you think it is internet’s fault? People all over the social media pretend that online shaming and online harassment is the problem of internet or the disadvantage of internet. They may not be ready to accept the fact that their act of judging— not the internet– can hurt the person’s feeling or ruin their lives. It is quite obvious that social media is a mutual approval machine. Internet has no idea what it does but we people have. We use social media in the ways we like and we are creating a massive gossip over the internet at the cost of others’ happiness and freedom.
Well, there is another side of the coin. Some people may argue that online shaming is a collective standing up for justice and equality. But I argue, what justice or equality do we expect from public defame of people, with so many abusive and vulgar words?
To give you some perspective, even an inhumane criminal is given a chance to speak for him/herself in the court and is heard by all the people who accuse him/her. But in online shaming, do the victims get any option or space to defend them? If they do, I am sure, they will have to be ready to be abused and destroyed more.
Benjamin Franklin once said “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking” and this is what happens in our society. Nobody thinks about the consequence of trolling people online.
They rarely know reason about the controversy, about the context and facts and go on abusing people or making fun of them. And if someone has knowledge about the controversy going on and speaks for the accused then he/she is also trolled and judged with them. So to me, this cannot be a justice but a way to destroy someone mentally. If public shaming was a way of giving justice then this would not have taken lives of so many innocent people.
To conclude, online shaming seems to be an autocratic justice court that gives no ‘wait’ and opportunities to clarify properly. The attack goes so viral that it acts like forest fire. So, what can we do?
Firstly, let’s learn to respect everyone’s freedom. People have their own ways of leaving. Secondly, let’s give people a chance to clarify, explain and apologize. Apology should be the guiding principle for human kindness. Finally, let’s stop our unexamined but brutal responses that lead people into depression or to commit suicides. And if someone commits a serious crime, let court punish them. Online world can always be a better place if we do not misuse it to humiliate and abuse others for no reasons but personal ego soothing.
Erisha Nepal is second semester student of BBA at Mahendra Multiple Campus, Dharan.