Written by Dr Samir Parikh
For some time, I have interacted with a young person who measured himself with the rating approval and likes on his social media platforms. So when he got a lot of critical comments about the way he looked in his photos, it resulted in a lot of self-esteem-related issues. To him, they amounted to a denial of his self-expression. So he started to withdraw from friends, avoiding school, and not showing up to meet relatives.
I have met people, who have experienced self-doubt because of the exceptional, critical and at times nasty comments that they get because of something they said or did or posed in. Besides these two examples, there are a number of cases where people have felt a lot of negativity, unease and discomfort about their imaging and positioning on social media platforms. Things have come to such a pass at times that they think about quitting social media altogether. However, all of us know that social media can be used positively as well and be another tool of communication.
Additionally, many people would also tell you that when they surf social media platforms, the negativity and toxicity they see give them a sense of unease and discomfort. Sometimes, irrespective of the trend or the nature of the post, there will be someone or the other who would have crossed the line in terms of being judgmental, nasty, abusive, derogatory and being a bully. This aspect needs to be looked into because it instills a sense of negativity. For example, when you go to school, college, the workplace, and at home, these are your safe places. You can fearlessly express yourself, communicate, connect and feel validated. Now imagine feeling disconnected, abhorred or isolated in these zones and you pretty much get the idea of how young people who consider social media as their home feel exposed and vulnerable.
Having said this, let’s delve further into what trolling can do to individuals — instilling self-doubt, developing a negative self-image, a negative body image, inducing a feeling of helplessness, feeling bullied and disrespected. All such things may result in anxiety or a traumatic experience with an impact on their academics, work performance and relationships. That is why trolling can’t be taken lightly.
Social media platforms need to create zero tolerance toward bullying and trolling. For young people, we need to create media literacy alongside strengthening responsible communication needs. And all of us, especially role models, need to think about how we share a difference of opinion or a difference of views. Why can’t we do that in a dignified manner, which helps in changing individuals and our way of living in a positive, adaptive manner? So, next time when you post something or see a friend posting something or when you come across a troll posting something, think about what you can do. Can you instill positivity and be a change maker?
The best way to defeat trolls is to ignore them completely and bury their provocation. Trolls always make disruptive posts to seek attention, even negative. With zero traction, they usually withdraw. Remember in real life, they would be very much like that obnoxious school bully whom nobody remembers. Don’t play their game of dominance. No battle can be won without the other side participating.
Internet trolls usually like to hide behind anonymity. Block them and keep online discourses to people who do have a verified, real ID. Just withdraw from conversations that feature unknown IDs. Also, never mimic dark, aggressive behaviour by replying in the same language. You could be guilty of hurting, negating or insulting others’ feelings without you realising it. Don’t walk on that edge.