Cyberbullying has taken its toll on thousands around the world. This form of online exploitation is truly heinous and can leave an indelible mark on the victim for years to come. With technology having advanced like never before, the tech space is at the disposal of many delinquent users.
Cybercrimes on a larger level include problems like theft or impersonation. However, cyberbullying is more of a personal attack. It can include adulteration of photos, barraging someone with hateful comments and the like.
What Is Cyberbullying?
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While we want to use social media and technology to make the world better and simpler, we have also introduced technologies that can easily be misused. Online harassment can take many shapes and forms. It can start with hateful comments and go all the way to blackmailing somebody by threatening to share their personal information or intimate details about their life.
In fact, this is also among the safety concerns associated with online dating. People often lure others into having intimate conversations or sharing intimate pictures, and then, threaten to use these against them. This kind of exploitation is just as brutal as any other. Read the below account to understand the process and implications of cyberbullying.
I fell in love as a child
On 31st October 1993, a young and charismatic genuine soul died. Halloween became unbearable for me ever since then. I was 9 years old and I felt like a part of me also died with the talented actor River Phoenix.
Years later, it all suddenly came back to me. The sadness rushed into my veins again. I started researching on lonely nights, being sleep deprived, about River. He was the eldest son born to hippie parents and lived in poverty. He had four siblings.
They used to play the guitar on the streets to earn some basic money. A vegan and an environmental activist all his life, he captured my heart and I began to believe we were meant to be. I was so fond of him as a person and completely smitten. Alas, he was no more, so I kept him in my heart and locked the door.
So, I believed the guy who said he was his brother
Years later, an imposter pretending to be his younger brother Joaquin Phoenix contacted me on Instagram. He professed utter love and devotion to me. He played on my vulnerability and sadness. I did not realize it at first and I believed this was destiny.
I quickly came to the conclusion that River had sent his younger brother to love and adore me in a way a woman deserved to be loved. We chatted for days and in my erotomania, I began to believe that this was Joaquin. He was not.
When I finally regained some sense and called him out, the imposter and cybercriminal showed his true colors to me. I finally understood that I was now prey to online harassment. He had been catfishing me all along.
He blackmailed me for $5,000, as in my emotional stupidity I sent him some intimate pictures of mine. He emailed me and threatened that he will expose me to the Indian media, ruin my writing career and sell my pictures to the highest bidder.
I shrank in shame and went to the cybercrime department and wrote an official complaint.
Related Reading: What are your legal options when breakup leads to revenge porn?
It was a hard fight against cyberbullying
Now, he has been caught. The procedure to get him to pay for his crime was difficult, but I said to myself, “Let’s fight.” At first, my parents were very upset with me. They thought I had been silly to share my intimate pictures in this way, which I agree, I was.
I took the help of a friend of mine and Googled the address of the cyber cell in New Delhi, which is located at Mandir Marg. Although I come from an influential background, I felt completely alone in this struggle. I stood in line for a long time and registered an official complaint.
They did not ask me many questions. They just made me write an application and the details of the incident, addressed to the Deputy Commissioner of the Cyber Crime Cell. I did not know what was happening after I registered the complaint and went home in shambles.
I cried for days. I was disappointed in myself and my heart was also broken. Cyberbullying had ruined my life. Moreover, my heart was in pieces. I did not know how to deal with the heartbreak.
Soon after, my dad followed up with the commissioner about the complaint and used his sources and intelligence to locate this criminal through his IP address and caught this psychopath. My hero Dad saved the day and saved not just me, as the criminal was doing the same thing to many girls, pretending to be a celebrity.
His modus operandi was to lure them with manipulative love promises and then extract money from his prey when he gathered something sensitive on them.
Related Reading: How To Protect Yourself Against Cyberstalking?
Never suffer in silence
Even if you are not from an influential background, you must fight these criminals and register complaints against cyberbullying. There is no shame in falling prey; the real shame is if we do nothing about it.
Let’s have faith in the police. Let’s be aware that if something is too good to be true, it does not hurt to re-check. Yes, I made a mistake, but I learned a lesson from it. Don’t trust someone online, unless you personally know them. Your suffering will only weaken you and strengthen them. Online harassment in all shapes and forms is completely unacceptable.
The effects of cyberbullying and blackmailing on people
As cyberbullying becomes more rampant in this digital age, it is important to be mindful of the consequences it can have on your life:
1. Trust issues: You stop believing in love, as you gave your soul to this person thinking he is someone else and you are shattered once you come back to reality
2. Trauma: The post-event trauma has you bound in depression and anxiety, which become your reality mixed with paranoia
3. Falling in love with the online persona: There are millions of cybercriminals or psychopaths out there who can manipulate you into believing they are who they are pretending to be, and an after-effect is that you are doomed to love the person they pretended to be, even if it’s not real.
To avoid being blackmailed or cyberbullied, be careful about who you talk to. Do not indulge in conversation with anyone and be alert about what kind of information they are trying to extract from you.
Understand how they make conversation with you. Moreover, try to notice how much information they let on about themselves vis-a-vis how much information they seek out you. Verify and check your facts.
By not trusting people too easily. Do not share personal photos or information that can be easily used against you. Keep your interactions with strangers casual, light and conversational. If your gut tells you something is amiss, pay attention.