By: Shanoy Coombs
Not too long ago, rumormongers in an effort to hurl nasty words would get the gears going by telling one, two then a few persons salacious and sometimes downright degrading things about others. This would often start within communities and may then extend beyond. Yet still, there were some limitations. Then came the internet and with all the positives that access and reach have provided, so too have the overwhelming negatives. From email lists, Social Media portals, accusatory websites and then some, the internet has been heavily utilized for cyber-bullying and global rumor-mongering.
And never for a moment assume you are out of harm’s reach. Alarmingly, one research estimates that as much as 40% of adults have experienced cyber bullying. Further a local security adviser noted:
“One of the major challenges with cyber bullying is tracing the source. Frankly, most persons who have made reports around same are usually shocked when pressed for more information as they are genuinely unable to identify a source or a motive. In fact, we have seen several cases where people are bullied over seemingly simple issues and by persons as close or as far as an envious ex partner, a jealous co-worker, a business partner or even a malicious complete stranger who only has access to another person’s life via glimpses on social Media”.
True to form, globally and in the local space, there has been an increasing number of artistes, athletes, business persons, persons who have started to build a reach and generally just about anyone have been subjected to some form of cyber-bullying. Just actually talk to a few persons and you’d be amazed at how many within your space have been affected in this way. These cyber bully postings have ranged from being extortion like in nature to being more on the libelous, malicious and defamatory side. One has to only look at the comments sections of posts online to see some of the overwhelming and cringe worthy examples.
Recently a local author spoke about her latest attacks and the solidarity expressed by several other women who have been victims of same. Having myself been a victim of cyber-bullying, once I got over the initial shock, hurt and pain, I have been heartened as I noted not one, not two but several initiatives in the local space around Social Media responsibility, thinking before you post and general online responsibility. These initiatives are particularly meaningful as they start with children and the youth populace and encourages them to think carefully before they post, be mindful not to overshare and also discourages any part in cyber-bullying based on the real hurt and pain it can cause for others and the criminal liability the poster may face.
To date, the Socially charged initiatives in the Jamaican space have included:
Bigga’s Socially Aware; Share with Care: An initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, local drink brand Bigga has rolled out a Social Media and School tour campaign targeting secondary-school students. The initiative aims to sensitize Jamaican children to the issues surrounding public postings on social media and online.
OCA’s Be Social Be Smart: Social Media guide: The Office of the Children’s Advocate has produced a trio of books and other practical content under the Be Social, Be smart tagline for children, teens, parents and teachers.
Quite Perry’s Social Media Responsibility Tour: Also a collaborative effort, local comedian, Quite Perry has rolled out a secondary school level intervention that calls on students to Watch weh yuh post (Watch what you post)
Together these initiatives are heartening because they have started to get young people to at least think about the consequences of their actions. It is also signalling hope for what I like to call human-ness (The ability to look beyond oneself and think of how your actions may truly hurt another).
Now if only the principles would be adopted by adults.
Speaking of adults, if we are encouraging youngsters to be mindful of what they post and how they interact within the online space, there should also be notable deterrents. Frankly, for persons who deliberately hide behind their digital devices and post damaging content about others, there must be strong penalties to dissuade these actions. Indeed one does not need to delve into the reputation and other damage that could follow harmful online postings and of course libel and defamation are legally punishable offences.
At the local level, the Cyber Crimes Unit in Jamaica has fielded growing complaints and reports around online defamation, libel, slander and exposure and encourages persons to continue to report same. To field a report, you can contact the Cyber Crimes Unit via 876. 976.5948 or 876.922.3288.
From my end, I truly believe that even from the most evil of intentions, there can spring forth good. Having therefore been unfairly targeted, my initial shock, hurt and pain have morphed into an eye opening opportunity. Indeed my sole comment on the offensive post read as follows…
It is true what they say. we all have 24 hours but we use it very differently.
We also have the internet, a powerful tool to be used for positivity, yet cowards lurk behind their devices and post such woefully inaccurate negativity in an attempt to malign.
Fortunately, I am a born with the innate desire to always thrive and grow. So after the initial shock, hurt and pain, what I see from this one malicious post is opportunity- The opportunity to more carefully monitor and manage my online reputation and the opportunity to wish that the doer of this evil deed will someday find their life’s purpose in the way that I have. Whatever successes I have gained to date have come only from hard work, smart work and true dedication. This formula will continue and with it the successes, so I will not be daunted or deterred by malice, envy or any other dark place that motivated this post.
In all of this there is solace that Cyber Bullying can affect ANYONE, UNPROVOKED and so now being placed in this unfortunate position that is certainly underlined by evil intent, I invite you to join me in efforts to silence cyber bullies. Visit my professional website http://www.shanoycoombs.com and subscribe even to keep abreast of meaningful anti cyber bully initiatives that will be rolled out.
Love and Light
As promised, I remain committed to utilizing my Development Communication experience to now turn some attention to cyber bullying as being much more than a kids or teenaged problem. In the event you want more information on this upcoming anti cyber bullying initiative? Join my mailing list to be among the first to know more.
Have you been a victim of cyber bullying? What are some of your most notable courses of action?
============================================================================Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page