THE BLOOM OF THE GLOOM: MEMES AS A MEDIUM FOR CYBER BULLYING
With the world entering a new aeon, becoming inclusive or as we call it "a global village", every concept, proposition, notion and talk has changed its course of acting out. Same words seem to have assorted meaning for the two generations who faced the immediate effect and consequence of liberalisation and globalisation. With that, preponderant number of latter day concepts flowed into the traditional system we followed for generations altogether. This generation is overly and overtly obsessed with the concept of comedy. As per the dictionary, comedy is a noun which means (professional entertainment consisting of jokes and sketches, intended to make an audience laugh.) In the due process of making it a part of our day to day lives and also, to feel ‘relatable’ which is almost synonymous to feeding our own insecurities, we adhered to numerous ways of giving comedy a platform, a portal to discover itself so as to be entertaining enough to dampen the sound of anything and everything causing distress. Out of many such platforms, "memes" in actuality became an indispensable fragment of our lives through social media. In today's o'clock, everyone has to conform to a group preaching similar interests, or say, a random fandom or just a web of online creatures feeling " relatable". As memes came into existence, so did this feeling of feeling relatable, feeling the same emotions as everyone else. The sad ones found their groups through memes demonstrating how depression is a trend and being sad is the new cool thing to do, the insomniacs found theirs through memes about people who are up all night watching vines and Netflix and to be very honest, the list never ends. As the meme culture grew, people started forming the same cohort to despise people who didn’t adhere to their concepts of beauty, intellect or worse of all, normalcy. The subjectivity of opinions became factual and rigid. Soon enough, the same memes which were created for the purpose of comedy, started reclining delicate and sensitive issues and nodus of the society and mental distress just for the sake of likes, comments and shares. Where the ‘memers’ or people who create memes failed to latch their thoughts is the certitude that behind the screens which display their memes, there were people with actual human emotions, people who are subjects to emotional sensitivity and distress. This lapse of judgement can perfectly be termed as ‘cyber bullying’. The old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” does not apply in the worlds of Internet technology, where false, hurtful or humiliating comments can go viral and global in just seconds tarnishing image and reputation of the victims but atop all, maiming them emotionally.
Cyber bullying differentiates itself from in-person bullying with a few significant characteristics. First, the potential for bullies to remain anonymous. Abusers are able to keep their identities hidden on such platforms which can lead to harsher and lingering torment. Bullying through memes on social media is often much more public. Traditional bullying typically only involves those directly involved, while cyber bullying can be made visible to hundreds of people, regardless of their involvement in the situation. Lastly, cyberbullying can have much more permanent and damaging effects on the victim. Anything said and done online can never be erased entirely, causing potentially deep damage to the victim’s reputation. If you look at it this way, memes are no different from just mediums propagating cyber bullying through nameless memes on body shaming, disregarding religious sentiments, demeaning and showing outright hatred for certain people, concepts and even communities. The trajectory of problems begin when the public arms these memes with the potentiality to actually influence them. Ever since that, no matter how inclusive the world would want to become, there would always be a social community bullying people online and subtly infusing preposterous concepts into their minds through memes which eventually ends up in them being overtly and visibly conscious of their body, mentality, speech, etc. I would never understand how someone’s body , skin colour, background can ever be reduced to comedy. Such memes are no less than mockery. These often function as a domain of negativity and shame with long-lasting impacts on the emotional well-being of its users. It is no different from cyber bullying, too. If anything, it is even worse than that. Emotionally and psychologically injuring someone, leaving them almost with no confidence under the veil of ‘ content for memes’ is utter monstrosity. According to a research study by P.E.W. research centre, almost 40% of America’s population has experienced some kind of cyberbullying through comic portals such as memes.
There are endless lasting effects that bullying can have on an individual, including effects on their physical, emotional, psychological, academic, behavioural, social, and economic health. Several studies have shown that the symptoms of bullying are remarkably similar to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and that there is a correlation between the two. At times, adults who experienced bullying in their youth may experience intrusive memories of being bullied many years later. In one study, 57 percent of bullying victims reported enough symptoms to formally classify their experience as trauma. Lizzie Velasquez, an activist who suffers from a rare, inherited condition where her body is unable to retain fat, recently became the subject of a meme that featured a photograph of her that specifically categorised as someone ugly. What exactly is uglier than calling someone ugly?
The Indian penal code provides remedy to those who are victims of cyber crime or bullying and even for those who are subject to emotional distress. While these remedies might overtly remedy the victim, the emotional scar is irreversible. Furthermore, in cases like this, what exactly would be different if the person creating outraging memes remains anonymous and is never caught. It would just jpromote his activity and eventually, no one can put a stop to these inappropriate memes leading to bullying. Well, that is a severe loophole in the social media leading to doom and gloom. So, spreading awareness about the sensitivity of such issues can actually bring about a monumental difference.
Speaking of my personal opinion, I have a habit of going through the comments section of posts on Instagram and Facebook that I find inappropriate just to have an insight into the social mindset that people bear. Very fortunately enough, I have come across a lot of comments disregarding the propagation or spreading of such memes. This is a small yet a very big change towards a brighter and a more inclusive platform. Social apps have the potential to serve as an outlet for creative, educational, and social opportunities. That is a very positive facet of it but it gets uglier when someone is anonymously bullied through memes which are only meant for comical purposes. People become subjects to ridicule and laughter and that is forlornly pathetic. No system needs to bring a whopping law or regulation to control these memes and bullies if the generation and people seeing and dealing with it are taught or just made to realise how it feels to be on the other side. Consideration and wit is what sets us apart from animals, so, what good are we if we can’t put the same to use to make this world a better place, a place accommodating all since it’s meant for all. Right away reporting such memes and a simple comment disregarding it would be enough to teach hundreds as to what is right and what is not. Differences exist because differences make a difference. Those same differences are not grounds to make fun of someone or to even mock someone. Upon this simple realisation, abysmal concepts of bullying and anonymously mocking someone through memes and comical portals would see a decline leading to a better and safe place for all.