Let’s Talk about Digital Harassment
We all know about issues with harassment. Humans have conducted and survived this behavior since the dawn of our existence. Due to this longevity of behavior and the discussions around it, we are quickly able to identify when in-person harassment occurs.
Within the last couple of decades, human behavior has taken on a new medium: the internet. We can establish an entire digital identity through a mix of social media, we can choose to anonymously communicate with strangers, and we are spending a vast amount of our time in this new digital world.
It is no surprise that harassment has been transmitted into the online environment, taking on its own unique form at an increasing rate.
Image acquired from GTFO.
The internet is the perfect environment for a harasser. Sitting in front of their screen with their face and identity hidden, they can comment to someone whose reaction they cannot physically see. It becomes a playground, a place to put forward their thoughts without filter.
Though these may not be actions these people would say or do in person, it is a statement to how they think and to how they see others. It is a documentation of viewpoints, and in an environment largely void of consequences, this behavior becomes not only telling but disturbing, especially if harmful actions become normalized.
There are two types of victims in online harassment: those who receive unwanted messages and those who have unwanted messages posted about them. Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newark surveyed over 1k Americans over the age of 18 about online harassment. In this survey, they found that 44% of it is sexual harassment, 23% is racial, 18% is religious, and 14% is homophobic (others included are professional character, political, etc).
The effects of these digital actions have very real consequences. According to psychologist Robin M. Kowalski, cyber-harassment has shown to increase victims’ levels of anxiety and depression, more so than offline bullying. It can also lead to fear for safety, as shown below:
This effects people of all ages. Taking stats from press and research outlets, OnlineCollege.org found that 20% of kids who are cyberbullied think about suicide and 1 in 10 attempt it.
Our relatively new dependence on the internet is here to stay. However, what can change is how behavior is conducted online. Real consequences need to be held for perpetrators, and all of us need to keep in mind that our words have meaning, whether they are said online or off.
Also published on Medium.