Tuesday June 18, 2019
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Cyber abuse – Are we losing our sensibility on social media?

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A still from the video.

By Keshav Chhabra

The recent cyber attack on actor Shruti Seth by Twitteratis is not the first time celebrities have been exposed to cyber abuse. Over the years, death threats have been received, especially by those who have ventured to express their opinion. Though these opinions are different from the mainstream, but sometimes, one wonders at the futility of such attacks. The easy privilege of anonymity with the introduction of social media has been a perfect catalyst for “trolls”; trolls which no more are limited to ridicule and jokes but insensible and vulgar abuse.

Considering the array of such attacks, it might be a bit too easy (and inappropriate) to dismiss these attacks in the name of “politics”. The accusations hurdled are usually baseless; almost no one trying to be polite enough to share the opinion. The tweets directed towards Seth were immensely misogynistic; ironically by those who were empowering females in India by #SelfieWithDaughter.

Cyber bullying

What Steve Ragan calls in his article “an easily exploitable attack surface”, the space has driven many to sign off from this virtual world. Sara Payne, Zelda Williams (Robin Williams’s daughter), Lily James, Stephen Fry, Jennifer Lawrence and many more decided to cut off this series after waves of social media abuse. The “sick jokes” are not easy to handle, are they? So, what could have been an avoidable situation ended up becoming the worst nightmare for someone who was brave enough to express an opinion.

Meghna Pant in her article writes about the fear she faced, after becoming a victim of cyber abuse writes, “It’s hard to describe the kind of fear I began to feel, but it was somewhat like being publicly lynched.” She talks about how the comments were directed on her face, her body. The threats of rape and acid attacks were directed to her, not for what she thinks, but because she is a woman.

A video which rocked the world of cyber bullying titled “My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm” depicting the story of a victim Amanda Todd has received more than ten million hits on Youtube. But the story has not changed much. Cyber abuse, which makes no distinction on the basis of gender, does not seem to end in the coming future. According to a report conducted by the state of Missouri in United States of America, around 38 per cent of frequent bully-victims reported suicidal thinking or a suicide attempt during the past one year.

A still from the video.
A still from the video.

Though many come up in the front to report such cases and extend their support to the victims of social abuse, the damage caused cannot be repaired. Apart from our own sensibility towards the issue, future exhibits little hope.

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Here’s How You can Fight Your Digital Addiction

Vohra suggested that when parents realise that their child is spending too much time on screen, it is very important first to have a dialogue with the kid and ask them to cut down on media consumption

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TikTok has over 54 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India. Pixabay

Digital addiction is real and it could be as dangerous as drug addiction, warned psychiatrists while outlining practical ways to fight the urge to use gadgets non-stop both among children and adults.

The warning came following reports of a 24-year-old mother committing suicide last week in Tamil Nadu after she was prevented from using TikTok and a 16-year-old student from Madhya Pradesh suffering a major cardiac arrest and losing his life after playing PUBG for six straight hours last month.

The key to fighting digital addiction is to realise the problem when someone develops it, the experts said.

Parikh also recommended that adults should undergo a four hours of “digital detox” every week – a period when they do not use their phone or any gadget.

“If one finds it difficult to go through those four hours then there is a problem which needs to be addressed,” he said.

People who are addicted to using gadgets, tend to get “withdrawal symptoms” in the form of always thinking about that them, or becoming irritable with disturbed sleep when they try to stop using their devices, said Sandeep Vohra, Senior Consultant, Psychiatry, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

“Digital addiction is as bad as addiction to any other drug. So if you are hit by digital addiction, the signs are that you actually tend to go off your normal routine life. You are always dependent and on the screen,” Vohra told IANS.

Such people can neglect personal hygiene and their own self. They also tend to stop interacting with the society, with their family members and stop thinking about their responsibilities or stop doing their day-to-day chores.

pubg
Some players claimed to have received the reminder within an hour and a half of playing the game. Wikimedia Commons

“One can have clinical depression, anxiety, obsessive symptoms, insomnia, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating on other things.

“And you can have in rare cases, when one becomes over-dependent, psychosis. So you have to be aware of all this and it can be very challenging if you don’t realise that you are going into addiction,” Vohra added.

It is not just adults who are vulnerable to digital addiction as use of smartphones and other gaming devices have become common among children.

But do we know when a child starts showing signs of addiction and when to seek help?

The experts suggested that parents should be alarmed when they notice that a child’s ability to live life normally has got affected and they lash out badly when digital access is denied.

“Parents need to be good role models. If parents spend too much time on digital gadgets then children learn and follow by example. Encourage children to be social and develop hobbies,” Parikh said.

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“If you keep focusing your child’s attention on indoor activities there are higher chances of him/her becoming digitally addicted. Therefore encourage him/her to play sports or meet friends and family. Reading is also a great way to combat boredom if indoors,” he added.

Vohra suggested that when parents realise that their child is spending too much time on screen, it is very important first to have a dialogue with the kid and ask them to cut down on media consumption.

“If they feel that either the child is not responding the way they want, or if they feel that the child is trying to tell them lies and still using time on screen, then it’s better to consult a mental health professional,” Vohra informed. (IANS)