By: Ashlyn Bi June 21, 2023
As social media has been widely employed, there has been a persistent concern about the epidemic of cyberbullying. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the problem of cyberbullying since an increasing amount of individuals now engage on digital platforms for social connection and communication, which has massively increased the prevalence of online bullying and harassment. Bullying and cyberbullying have many shared characteristics of form and approach, but they also differ significantly. Cyberbullying, in contrast to traditional bullying, permits the offender to conceal their identity behind a computer. Without having to witness the victim's physical reaction, the perpetrator can strike attacks on the victim more easily due to their anonymity. As technology has a distancing impact on today's youth, they tend to say and do crueler things than what is expected in a conventional face-to-face bullying situation. On top of that, cyberbullying is a lot more “universal", meaning that almost anyone across the world is able to virtually taunt and bully an individual without receiving any sort of repercussion.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extensive use of online education, there has been an overall upsurge in the usage of digital devices for both academics and recreation. It has been shown that people are spending 20 percent more time on social media than they were pre-pandemic. As a byproduct of this development, more individuals, students specifically, have access to the internet, encouraging people to be more inclined to cyberbullying. Accessibility, however, is not the only factor contributing to the substantial rise in cyberbullying. The National Institutes of Health clarified that the rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder have increased following the pandemic and the prolonged confinement during it. These mental health problems are directly linked to a person’s behavior, and according to studies, individuals may resort to cyberbullying as a coping mechanism to feel a sense of pleasure and control over their own life.
On the popular social media platform, TikTok, cyberbullying has been demonstrated to be very prevalent and has major impacts on its victims. 19-year-old Claudia, who is better known as @babyclaudiax and gained over 140,000 followers on her main account, has experienced several hostile and harassing comments on her videos. In one especially unpleasant incident, Claudia posted a video of herself dancing online and immediately started receiving a substantial amount of negative comments, fat-shaming, and criticizing her weight. It was made all the worse when numerous other people liked these offensive remarks instead of speaking up against the hurtful comments. To add on top of that, another influencer joined in on the damaging remarks, though Claudia opted not to name them. "All the hate really hurt me," Claudia said. "When I switched accounts, the hate stopped because no one was watching me anymore. I was so scared that someone would find my page again and judge me for it." Due to these malicious remarks, Claudia and many other Individuals are frequently compelled to limit their appearance on social media by utilizing smaller, less visible accounts where they are less likely to be targeted.
Many individuals ponder why cyberbullying is becoming so prevalent in the current society. Although there are multiple causes for this tendency, one major reason is the introduction of a fresh perspective to humor. One example of this behavior was notably exhibited by a TikTok trend that arose during the pandemic, whereby particular "gentle" emojis were abused to disguise nasty comments and make them seem less cruel. However, some individuals have further advanced this notion by inserting death threats next to emojis like the sparkle, fairy, and hearts. Teenagers' sense of humor has quickly gotten progressively harsher since their online anonymity hides them from receiving serious backlash. Leaving nasty comments has become a frequent occurrence on various social media sites, not just limited to Tiktok. The idea, "dark comedy" has been recently altered in a way that includes derogatory remarks about someone's race, sexuality, religion, etc... This form of "dark humor" has rapidly gained popularity as a form of comedic expression that is widely accepted, specifically by teenagers. Although this type of humor may not always be characterized as disrespectful, it can be particularly hurtful when a comment is used directly against an individual who does not interpret it as a joke in the same way as the perpetrator. Although creators and all accounts are given the opportunity to block and report other accounts, these damaging insults can leave a deep scar on someone’s mental health and their personal image of themselves.
The large number of Individuals who have endured cyberbullying has been significantly impacted as a result. The effects can easily take a toll on one's mental health and impede their ability to carry out daily tasks. One study showed that 64% of victims of cyberbullying described that it interfered with their ability to learn and feel comfortable in school. Not only that, persistent cyberbullying was proven to be connected to issues of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, family issues, school violence, and more. These individuals are more inclined to self-harm and showcase suicidal behaviors as a result as well. This is a harmful problem that has recently become more and more prevalent as social media continues to be incorporated into our lives. Cyberbullying has especially worsened in the last few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this issue itself is a harmful pandemic that spreads extremely quickly and uncontrollably plagues many individuals across the internet.