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Anyone and everyone who has ever tried to put themselves out there in this digital world understands what it is like to be trolled. It has, over the short period that the internet has been around, become an inescapable part of our online experience and as usual, women are the ones who bear the brunt of it. We are also the ones who are constantly told to “adjust” and “ignore”— why?

Why must we always take the abuse quietly in whatever form it comes in?

By not speaking up and not calling the abusers out we are allowing them to hide behind their screens and their anonymity to spew hate on the internet.

This common negative experience persists because we are all taking it, silently. Through this imposed lockdown arising from the COVID19 pandemic, more people are spending time online than ever. And as I started to do more live interviews and webinars and so on, I realized that the trolls had increased as well. And so I decided, after hearing Teena Singh (Akira fame) speak about her experience on an Instagram live that I wasn’t going to ignore it anymore.

Social media is a creep-fest and even more so now during lockdown when so many more people have free time to spend online. The figures show you how deeply prevalent this is. 8 out of 10 Indians have faced online harassment and 73% have been exposed to or have experienced some form of online harassment, abuse or stalking. And just to be clear about the things that constitute online harassment and cyber-bullying, they are:

  • Non-consensual sharing of intimate images and videos.
  • Exploitation, coercion, and threats.
  • Sexualised bullying.
  • Unwanted sexualisation.
  • All forms of unwelcome sexual requests, comments and content.

Revenge porn, which is defined in the dictionary as “revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person posted on the Internet, typically by a former sexual partner, without the consent of the subject and to cause them distress or embarrassment.”

  •  Cyber-stalking, which is defined as “the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails.”

Why is it time to speak up and report these creeps in our Direct Messages (DMs)?

Simply put, it’s because enough is enough. If it is true that we are spending more and more time online, then shouldn’t it be equally true that it is within our right and I would go as far as to say duty, to ensure that it is a civil experience? So, it is up to us to take out the trash—together.

Finally, I would like to say that the online world has given me so much that it is unfair to paint a one-sided picture. The opportunities afforded to people right now because of the democratic nature of the internet means that people from all walks of life get a chance to create content, showcase their work, build their brand and collaborate to grow further. I think that’s beautiful. But the dark side of that experience with all its lewd comments, bullying and X-rated imagery is what we want to tackle through this campaign so that everyone on the internet can be authentic and share of themselves without fear.

The other thing I must mention here is that for every monstrous creeper out there are many nicer guys. Every time I or any of my friends have posted about these experiences we have been flooded with love, concern and outrage by our guy friends and even strangers saying they wish there was something they could do. There is! One, please keep the support coming, you have no idea how much verbal support, concern and validation can be a balm to the cruelty of creeps. But second, do the simple things, help and encourage her to submit a complaint to the cyber cell. You can take her permission and do it for her, compile the URLs and screen names, collect the evidence so she doesn’t have to reread all the nasty comments and DMs, send the email and track the progress of the complaint online. That would help a lot! I warn you it will take a toll on your mental health at some point to see watch out for that. It hurts everybody eventually.

At MissMalini, we try our best to lead by example, some of you may even remember our #ItEndsWithMe campaign, which is why we have tried to make the internet a safer and kinder place by starting Malini’s Girl Tribe to try and fix the internet. I started this group as an experiment to see if women would want a private, safe space to be authentically themselves on the internet. And the numbers, a year and some in, speak for themselves.

In conclusion, all I want to say is this: I hope we all use our voices to speak up and affect change positively, for a more positive, empathetic and kind world. I will discuss more on how to safeguard yourself against cyberbullying and steps you can take if you are a victim.

Part 1 – Have you been Cyber bullied?

Part 2 – Independence on Social Media

Part 3 – Clear the trash in cyber space

Malini Agarwal is the Founder of MissMalini Media. With a rapidly expanding organic readership and a social media reach of over 6 million direct followers, she is considered one of India’s leading digital influencers and a leading authority on digital brand building. Named as India’s most famous blogger by The Huffington Post and Forbes, Malini has been featured in various international titles including BBC World (UK), Reuters, CNN (USA), DW (Germany), TV5(France) and The Globe & Mail (Canada). She is also a regular feature in local publications such as Vogue India, Elle India, Grazia India, Hello! India, India Today and NDTV Profit among many others. Expanding their media network, MissMalini made its foray into television in 2014, introducing the reality entertainment TV series, MissMalini’s World on TLC, and just introduced another celebrity show, Kya Seen Hai @MissMalini on ZOOM.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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[…] my previous article, I had discussed #ItEndsWithMe campaign by me. By speaking up and calling the abusers out we are […]