There are various forms of bullying, and amongst them, cyber bullying has become the most prominent (Kevorkian & D'Antona, 2008). It is a growing problem in today’s digital world because it can be performed via a cell phone or computer with just a word or sentence (Kowalski et al., 2008).
To help people become more aware of the impacts of their actions online, I interviewed Rojina. A year ago, she started experiencing cyber bullying. We began by discussing the origin of the bullying behaviour she had experienced. “An online contest was held where the participants had to post their image. I was always interested in those contests but didn’t realise there was a totally different side to it. After posting my image, I can still remember the very first comment: ‘You are ugly, you should never exist’. At the beginning, I just ignored it and didn’t give any attention to it. But later on, I got over 50 comments, all of which were targeting my body and shaming me. After a few days, personal messages from unknown people and fake accounts started body shamming me over the image I put up. I felt hopeless and humiliated and doubted myself more than ever. I couldn’t think of any other thing and couldn’t concentrate anywhere. Soon I was in the midst of an emotional crisis.”
Listening to her experience, I carefully asked what the most hurtful moment for her was. “Overall, it was the most traumatic experience that I had to go through. Because of those comments, my self-esteem was drowning, and I was doubting the worth of my existence. I suppose I got to know my real friends during that time. Some of my friends gossiped behind my back, adding more false rumours, which only made the situation worse. Not everyone you spend time with will support you. Most of them just wait for an opportunity to drag you down at your most vulnerable time.”
“I overcame the experience though. The most important part was learning ways to embrace and love myself. We, as humans, are undoubtedly imperfect; it is our unique features which must be embraced and make us special. Those hateful comments exposed my unique features to me, and instead of hating them, I found ways to appreciate them. I also found my real friends during those difficult times, as they were the ones who were helping me overcome all that toxicity. I distanced myself from the ones who tried to spread rumours and gossip about me, surrounding myself with my friends who genuinely wanted the best for me. It did wonders for my confidence and comfort in myself. For weeks I didn’t know what to do, as there was nowhere to hide, but soon I realised that it’s them who think about me in that way. It doesn’t have to be my way of thinking. After building up my self-confidence a little, I started blocking the bullies one after another. That was my proudest moment. In the beginning I was so angry and used to reply to each comment, just escalating it and giving the bullies’ attention, who would then team up and try to humiliate me further. After reflecting on this, I recognised it was just wasting my time, energy and positivity on their negativity and stopped replying to their comments. Finally, I reported it, and soon the pages where I got all those body shamming comments were all deleted.”
As we were ending our interview session, Rojina wanted to share one central message to help empower anyone who is facing that same battle she won: “We define our true worth because we know ourselves better than anyone else.”
Kevorkian, M., & D'Antona, R. (2008). 101 Facts About Bullying: What Everyone Should Know. R&L Education.
Kowalski, R., Limber, S., & Agatston, P. (2012). Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165. 10.1002/9780470694176.