After the internet, many people have been able to connect with others hundreds and thousands of miles away from themselves. Messaging apps such as Messenger, What’s App, and more have helped people of all ages connect with their families from miles away. It’s also been a way for celebrities to connect with their fans on apps such as Instagram and, now, TikTok as well.
The emergence of social media and the internet has so many great benefits, but, there is also the dark side that is less talked about. All teenagers are taught about bullying and cyberbullying in school. Not too many teens experience this, but for the ones that do, it is a horrible experience when it is in person as well as online. These kids have no escape from the constant bullying and, most of the time, it messes up their mental health, as they are ostracized by their peers.
In this day and age, cyberbullying is the most popular form of bullying. Many people have their own definition of the word cyberbullying, but the dictionary defines it as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person”. This could mean a multitude of different things. Some people will say that cyberbullying only means messaging another person and making fun of them. Others will say it goes beyond that. Likes and followers have become a way to determine a person’s worth. When someone posts a picture online or creates a social media account, it opens up a world of critics. If others consider you ugly or overweight, the comments about those characteristics start to pour in. No one is safe from this criticism either, not even celebrities.
Internet fame and its downfalls
Unfortunately, no one is safe from becoming the target of this form of harassment. It is quite a common occurrence.
“It’s common for people to try and discredit or bully others based on a difference of opinion or a sense of superiority. Mainly, celebrities aren’t immune to this either. Not long ago, actress Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Instagram account after constant abuse by Star Wars fans. Additionally, this is not an isolated event. The general public tends to target celebrities online when they do or say they don’t agree with their narrow point of view.” (Chhabra)
Many influences and celebrities can relate to moments when they have negative comments written about them. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez have received a lot of backlash for gaining weight. Influencers such as the Da’mellio sisters have received hate for not wanting to eat snails or have more followers. They receive hate for being normal teenagers. Every part of their life is put on display and judged. Some people hate them for no reason other than for being famous.
This issue is not only happening in America but also across the sea in other countries. In Asia, the actions of actors and singers are even more monitored. In 2018-2019, many Korean singers ended their lives after receiving harassment from fans and other netizens, and their companies. Popular singers such as Go Hara, Kim Jonghyun, and Choi Sulli made a huge impact in the K-pop industry on cyberbullying and the consequences it holds.
Cyberstalking and cyberbullying
With the help of the internet, many people are able to connect with their favorite content creators. Fans are able to feel closer to celebrities than ever before and find just how many similarities they have. While many fans are able to be respectful of the private lives of celebrities, others are not. Some fans take it too far and stalk them. Some celebrities have had to sign a restraining order on certain fans that have taken it too far. The worst case of stalking I have come across is from sasaeng fans. A Sasaeng fan is an obsessive type of fan who stalks and engages in behaviors that many consider an invasion of privacy.
Kpop boy band: EXO
EXO was a boy band from South Korea who quickly rose to fame back in the early 2010s. They have admirers all over the world with sold-out concert venues no matter where they go. All the fame was great until sasaeng fans started to take things too far. While there are too many to even recount, some are just downright disgusting and disturbing. While on tour, the members discovered a hidden camera planted by one of the fans inside the room and outside. There are images online of a fan who got hold of one of the member’s undergarments and posted it online to sell. There were also articles about fans who got a hold of EXO’s work schedule and started to stalk them in person, as well as online activities to get a glimpse of the superstars.
This case has only gotten worse in the present day as Kpop has become an even bigger industry with the broad success of BTS. They also have a long site of sasaeng stories from stalking to straight-up physical harassment. Certain fans would lunge at them to try and kiss them or steal the member’s personal belongings. One sasaeng fan even went as far as following the band member Suga, and taking pictures of him. She would post the photos of him during his free time proudly online to the point other fans had to tell her to stop harassing him.
Is cyberstalking a form of cyberbullying?
I believe yes. While cyberbullying is more in the sense of mocking someone and making them feel bad about who they are, cyberstalking is getting into that person’s psyche and controlling their mental state of being. They both lead to the victim becoming depressed and destroying their mental health. Both cyberbullying and cyberstalking have led to many people taking their lives to get away from the trauma that comes with it. It is the third most common motive for murder in the US and second-most in the UK (Tanhuke). While popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have worked hard in trying to stop the growth of cyberstalking, it is not enough.
With the recent case of the whistleblower who exposed apps such as Facebook and Instagram spreading negative and far-right propaganda.
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy,” she said during her opening remarks. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.” (CNN)
She states how toxic these pages can be. They have the option to hide such content and remove it from view, but they instead boost the post. This is to have more users engage with the post and use the apps more often. Both of these apps have an option to block or report such posts. Now, with this news, it is hard to believe that is truly the case.
With the popularity of the internet, it is hard to block out all of the negative comments and people. This leads to more opportunities for cases of cyberbullying and cyberstalking (Tanuke).
Social media and body image
There are so many users of the Instagram app and of those billions of users, the most popular users are from the age of 18-34. There are also quite a large number of users from the age group of 13-17. Many of these users are women who are easily targeted for their looks. If they are not skinny or pretty enough, others would post horrible comments to make them feel ashamed. Celebrities who have surgery also target their young audience. They make promises of diet pills and makeup brands that will help them gain the male gaze. This can lead to many of these adolescents, both male and female, feeling shame when looking at their own bodies.
These are not things that someone so small should have to be exposed to. It creates an unhealthy attraction to a body image that is not reality. Seeing so many ads and having their favorite celebrities endorse diet culture has led to an increase in body dissatisfaction and having a lower self-value. This is not healthy as many of the people who are the targeted audience are meant to be eating and growing. Kids who are not able to succeed in getting such results often become targets by those who are. Having a hanging belly and wearing short clothes can make you a laughing stock. Being too skinny can lead to mean comments. There is no in-between.
Diet Culture takes on the internet
Diet culture has become such a trend due to the increase in social media. It has become a marketing scheme(Lisha). Many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and others constantly post their amazing figures on apps such as Instagram. It can make their viewers assume that with hard work they can also achieve that type of body shape. Then these same celebrities endorse diet pills that promise weight loss, saying they use them to gain that body type. Kids then go off to buy those pills and expect the same result for themselves. They don’t understand that these celebrities have so many people in the background who help them achieve those looks. In a way, that can be seen as bullying those who are less fortunate and innocent. They do not know any better.
How cyberbullying affects mental health
As kids, we watch movies in class about bullying and what to do when you or someone we know gets bullied. But now, bullying has a new term that not many people are aware of. From text messages to Twitter/ Facebook hate groups, there are multiple ways to target someone. These sorts of sites are quite common and can be as small as hating on one person to a whole organization. Pages for fascist and anti-Semitic groups are in abundance. Although many people have reported these groups, more always pop up. Facebook has also worked hard to remove hate speech from its site.
These hateful comments that people make just for fun can be quite harmful to others. Many teens have experienced mental health problems from this. If you were to ask a student from middle school to high school if they know someone who has committed suicide, many of them would say yes. Bullies target students who are different from them. In countries where interracial students are uncommon, bullies target them for these differences. Cases of bullying almost always go undetected or ignored. That makes it even harder for these students to communicate about their problems. This is not only an issue in school, but also later on in life for many Japanese people.
The ostracization of those who are different does not end in grade school. Rather, it continues into the workplace. Thus, the treatment of those who are even slightly different may contribute to Japan’s mental health issues. (Hardetsy)
This transcends the real world and also onto the screen with the increase of the internet. There are so many internet pages that specifically target a group of people that is different than them.
Hateful and Conspirational online pages
Facebook is notorious for having many hateful pages that target almost every group of people. Some pages include:
- QAnon: Page that believes a group of pedophiles is actually in control of the world governments
- Three Percenters: a group of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim militia who believe they are the decedents of the only 3 percent of colonists that fought against the British during the Revolutionary War.
- Exposing the Rothschild: Page that discusses anti-Semitic views and claims to “uncover” how a Jewish family who had a large hold in the bank reserve could have come about
and many more (ADL.org). These groups are, in a sense, cyberbullying other groups of people for being different than them. Many of the people who are hiding behind their screens post on these sites so they do not have to face repercussions for their actions. Others use the group to gain more confidence to actually act out their disgusting desire of hurting others. Either way, these pages are toxic to the people and the user behind them.
Significance to Anthropology
Just as we learn about the despicable things humans have done to other groups in the past, we will one day learn about the horrific thoughts that people have had about others from the use of the internet. We like to think people such as the Nazis are gone, but in reality, they are still around, hiding behind their screens and posting hateful speech. Cyberbullying is not something that we can ignore, because it continues to cause so much hate for no reason. It is not needed in our world for any reason. It does not benefit anyone. With more and more technology, bullying has evolved into cyberbullying, and in the future, it could evolve to something even worse.
Pages such as stopbullying.org, and UNICEF are working hard to combat cyberbullying, but it takes more than just a few bystanders to stop it. It is important to be an upstander as these forms of bullying have led to depression and death. Singer Logic has also worked to help those who are depressed to call the suicide prevention lines, to teach those that they are not alone and that there are others who want to help.
If you or someone you know are in need of help, please call 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741. (AFSP)