Written by: Hasnaa Mansour
Scrolling through my Instagram, I came across a few photos of famous Egyptian actress, Ragaa El-Geddawy, who was celebrating her 80th birthday, which seems to me, and every other normal human being, pretty normal. But apparently it wasn’t for some other people. Reading some of the comments, I couldn’t believe that some people could be this rude to each other. They commented with “Wow, she’s 80 and still celebrating her birthday?!” and even awful things like “This must be her death celebration.”
Although this actress did not offend or hurt anyone, some people decided it was funny to mock her. These people are called online trolls. They search the Internet for an object of their ridicule, sometimes just for the sake of their own amusement.
With Internet being easily accessed by almost everyone nowadays, cyberbullying and online trolling have become increasingly common. Internet has become a fertile ground for bullies sitting behind a screen, harassing or offending other human beings.
Cyberbullying was defined by the National Crime Prevention Council as “the process of using the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person,” while the mass media have defined an online troll as “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families.”
Unlike an online troll who acts as a nuisance to Internet community by leaving general hateful, sexist or racist comments on social media to grab attention or just for their own amusement, a cyberbully is someone whose main target is to hurt or harm an individual intentionally by posting malicious material online.
Cyberbullying has serious consequences. Victims can feel vulnerable, powerless, exposed and humiliated, which could eventually become too much for the victim to handle, causing them to be emotionally damaged and even consider suicide.
There are many other stories of Internet trolling and cyberbullying from around the world. But the rate has been increasing alarmingly in Egypt in the last few years. And unlike countries like USA, Canada and Spain, which started spreading awareness and running campaigns against cyberbullying and even criminalizing it, Egypt doesn’t acknowledge cyberbullying enough.
Celebrities and Internet personalities are the most affected by cyberbullying in Egypt. Many celebrities were cyberbullied by people in multiple occasions. And believe it or not, you could’ve possibly participated in one of those actions without even realizing it.
Nelly Karim, the talented Egyptian actress, was once attacked and slut-shamed for posting a picture of her spending a day at the beach wearing a bikini. Amir Eid, the lead singer of Cairokee, was accused of abusing drugs after posting his photos on Instagram following his major weight loss. Farida Osman, Egyptian international swimming champion, was called masculine and ugly after her mother said in an interview that she wanted to live long enough to witness Farida’s wedding.
Reading about the psychology of a cyberbully, I was met with a very interesting statement: “Bullies are made not born,” which is true. There are many factors that affect a person’s personality since childhood and shape the way they communicate with others later on in their life. Researches show that bullying behaviors are developed between toddler and preschool years and continue to progress through elementary school if the behavior of the child is left unchecked. Disciplinary parenting styles that use threats and violence to control child’s behavior are linked with this child becoming a bully and, in turn, using the same methods with his peers.
Also, low self-esteem is one of the main reasons that drive someone to become a bully. This lack of self-esteem can trigger the need to be in control of someone. That’s why bullies sometimes target weaker victims so they can satisfy their need of feeling superior, especially if it’s from behind their computer and mobile screen. Difficult upbringing results in low self-esteem. This is why the parents’ role is very important in the early years of child’s life. They need to encourage their children to speak up and be assertive without being aggressive in standing up for themselves.
Finally, cyberbullying can be more dangerous than traditional bullying, as the anonymity can make bullies bolder, knowing that they can harass someone or post hateful comments on their profile and get away with it. This can be seen in websites like Curious Cat and Ask.fm. Cyberbullies use these kinds of websites to hurt people by posting malicious comments and saying mean things to them. This is why cyberbullying should be criminalized globally.
Criminalization of cyberbullying will help limit this phenomenon from spreading and will make a bully think twice before they say or do something that could hurt someone else.