Abuse is very common in our world and comes in many forms, some more obvious, some less so. Internet abuse is often overlooked, although it can cause the victim serious emotional distress. We often feel that the internet is something we can just “turn off”, but in this day and age, that simply isn’t so. A good deal of our daily lives is spent on the internet in some form. And if not, then we are on our phones. In 2017, a study showed we are checking these little devices 47 times a day and young adults spend about 5 hours per day browsing the web. Whatever we encounter during this time does influence us to a large degree. One unkind comment from a “friend” could ruin our mood for the entire day. We are using technology nonstop and society expects us to be there to answer a query on the drop of a dime. We use this for work, for connections, for research, for fun…we cannot simply “turn it off”.
The issues that we come across in this “world” do affect us and it is easy for someone to get angry over a misunderstanding in something said in text or shared through a social media platform, for instance. Of course, the things we say online are not really going to hurt anyone right? It is just a text, right? How much harm can that really do? Somehow there is a disconnect from the person on the other end of the device. They believe that those in the online world are less real than they are. We forget that the little icons we are typing at actually have feelings that are just as real and sensitive as our own.
Everyday, millions of people see something online that evokes a rage inside of them and they REACT. Most of these causes are just misunderstandings; a great little comedy skit illustrates how this misunderstanding can happen quite easily. And folks get ANGRY. In person, even if something does anger them to the same degree, they will hold their responses back and probably go home to let off some steam. However, online, due to the idea that people online are somehow less real, there are no inhibitions. We are “safe” behind our screens, so a grenade is fired and all sorts of ugliness is let loose. Hurtful remarks are spewed forward towards this awful jerk that had a difference of opinion or posted a photo. How dare they?! There is no time spent to try to understand where the other person is coming from at all, just a knee-jerk reaction of rage and an explosion that follows.
Sometimes the initial disagreement can create much more than a quick reaction. Sometimes, the abuser will go as far as to methodically sabotage the victim virtually. There are many ways that someone can go about this, including contacting others that the victim is associated with and spreading rumors, posting past conversations, photos, or other data that the victim may have shared with them in a private message, stalking, using the victim’s personal information to sign up to various websites and services, or simply calling/texting/messaging them nonstop with offensive language or materials, forcing the victim to change their phone number or email address at times. The abuser feels that it “serves them right” for offending them. The abuser feels that justice is being served. This sort of behavior would likely not be present without the technology there to mask and disconnect them from the victim and the “real world”, they often would not be able to pull the same stunt when face to face with a human being instead of a computer, phone, or other device. This cowardly approach, where one can keep their distance from the situation and act out as would a child throwing a tantrum, is unfortunately prevalent in our modern society. But these actions, and many others, ARE considered harassment.
If you are experiencing this sort of abuse, gather as much information as you can about the situation: the date that the incidents started, anyone who you feel might be the abuser and why, a note of all incidents you have noticed and experienced, and other similar information. Report this to the authorities and see if they can help you resolve the situation. Unfortunately, many times it is not possible to find the abuser and the only options are to change phone numbers, email addresses, limit social media accounts, and try to remove all personal contact information from online sources.
Changing your online presence may make you feel as though the abuser just won. It isn’t fair and you shouldn’t have to be put in this position. There is always a risk that we take when we choose to engage in the online world, and though it is absolutely not okay that these things happen, they do happen often. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to make it impossible for the abuser to use your information or contact you and hope that they will just eventually forget about you, which is often the case. Rage feeds rage and when they cannot get their fix, they will likely move on to doing something else and eventually calm down. Or they will find another victim to bother and move their efforts towards them and away from you. This is truly unfortunate, but we can only do so much in an anonymous world.
Those who engage in the online realm must start making an effort to recognize that most of what they believe is abrasive or insulting from another person, is often just a misunderstanding and not meant to actually cause harm. It is imperative that we also realize that those who we come across online are real people, with real emotions and that blasting them online is just as impactful as doing so in real life. It is neither appropriate nor warranted. If something offends you online and you feel yourself falling into a rage, leave the situation, take a breather, and move on. It is probably not what you think and not worth the hostile situation that it may bring on.
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!
Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kasiakraut/