Ever since the world expanded its dependence on digital life, drawbacks were bound to happen. Online abuse as well as cyberbullying aren’t exactly new concepts. However, as the current pandemic increased the importance of relying on online communication, the problem got more drastic. Moreover, though everyone can be a victim of online abuse, new data revealed that almost 60% of women and girls using any form of social media are suffering from different kinds of cyberbullying.
Furthermore, “It’s no secret that misogyny and abuse are thriving on social media platforms, but this poll shows just how damaging the consequences of online abuse are,” said Amnesty researcher Azmina Dhrodia. “This is not something that goes away when you log off.”
Suppressing girls’ voices
A survey by girls’ equality group Plan International revealed that the constant abuse has forced 1 in 5 girls to abandon or cut down her use of social media platforms. Data also shows that the harassment started when some were as young as eight years old. “Girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment,” stated the organization’s chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.
The poll included a total of 4,000 women aged 18-55 from the United States, Britain, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and New Zealand.
The survey also noted that the harassment was most common on Facebook with 39 percent of the participating confessing to being a victim of such attacks. The second was Instagram with 23 percent, followed by WhatsApp with 14 percent, Snapchat with 10 percent, Twitter with 9 percent, and finally TikTok with 6 percent.
The abuse varies from explicit messages, pornographic photos to cyberstalking. Moreover, many were threatened wit physical abuse along with sexual violence. Many girls who use such platforms to advocate for their rights are now scared to even voice out their opinion. Thus, almost three-quarters of these girls admitted that they had changed how they used social platforms as a result of abuse. Additionally, 32 percent of them stopped posting content or refrained from expressing their opinions on certain issues lest the abuse continues.
“Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard, and become leaders,” she added.
A long term effect
These bullies and harassers aren’t only suppressing the girl’s voices, but they are also leaving the girls with deep scars. Many are even fearing for their family’s safety as the harassment increases. Furthermore, since 60 percent of the victims confessed that online abuse came from strangers, there’s no effective way to stop the problem.
Moreover, online harassment, as well as any kind of harassment and abuse, leaves the victim vulnerable in the face of mental illness. 61 percent of the girls started experiencing lower self-esteem or loss of confidence. 55 percent of them are also battling stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Furthermore, 56 percent of the victims are losing their concentration and focus.
“Social media has helped enhance freedom of expression, including access to information in many ways. But as offline discrimination and violence against women have migrated into the digital world, many women are stepping back from public conversations, or self-censoring out of fear for their privacy or safety,” stated Dhrodia.
In brief, even in the digital world, misogyny, sexism, and hatred thrive healthily. The anonymity of it has created the ideal environment for these activities with girls and women suffering in the process. The reporting tools are certainly ineffective in stopping the abuse. Thus, in an open letter women from around the world urged social media platforms to create more effective ways as a means of stopping the abuse.
We use [your platforms] not just to connect with friends, but to lead and create change. But they are not safe for us. We get harassed and abused by them. Every. Single. Day,” they wrote.
“As this global pandemic moves our lives online, we are more at risk than ever.”
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