Keyboard Courage

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Photo Source – Google Images

We live in the era of Social media, a time when our digital persona is as important as our real-life persona. We often get jobs/job offers based on our online presence. Some even lose jobs on account of expressing their (politically incorrect) opinions on social media. Online bullying, trolling, stalking, threatening, scams, etc., have become almost household terms. Perhaps every single person with an online presence has faced at least one of these issues, once in their lives. Of course, like most things, social media isn’t all bad, it connects people from all over the globe, often in real-time, it has created new industries, and creates awareness via social (media) activism, etc.

The trouble is, online trolls tend to think that their words/actions have no consequences in real life. We hear about victims of online bullying getting depressed and even going so far as to commit suicide too often.

Those who know me, know how much I value my privacy. For the longest time, I was never part of any social media platform. When I finally joined, I took every step to ensure the highest privacy settings. Not only do I check the settings on each of my posts and photos, and set the privacy settings to the max, I also diligently review the privacy policy every few weeks to ensure that the new policy changes/updates don’t somehow make any of my posts public. I don’t accept “Friend” requests or “Connection” requests from people I don’t know, and even go so far as periodically “unfriend” people who don’t constantly engage with me online, this is because the idea of someone lurking and just watching my posts rather than actively engage with me online, creeps me out to no end, even if these are people I know. Not only this, I even operate on most social media platforms on a pseudonym. Some might call me paranoid, but given my general ineptitude with technology, I figured better safe than sorry.

Despite all these general precautions, I have been a victim of cyber stalking in the recent past, and although statistics show that most people face issues like this from people they know, my stalker was a complete stranger. A man who lives hundreds of miles away in a little village. His only access to me was perhaps a chance encounter of my profile on Facebook, when I had probably liked or commented on a public page. This was probably the one thing my privacy practice hadn’t taken into account.

This whole episode has been eye-opening and quite revelatory for me –

  1. I realised that, no matter what we do, and how many precautions we take, trouble can come and find us at any time and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. Living life comes with that risk.
  2. Quitting Social media is NOT the solution. For me at least, more privacy would mean closing every account, throwing away my phone, and moving into a cave. That, I’m afraid, is just not an option.
  3. If/when you ever find yourself in trouble, the first thing to do is to report it to the local law enforcement. Trolls need to be taught that their actions are not beyond real life consequences!
  4. Living in a state of paranoia ages you, puts a strain on your personality and your relationships. So take action, ask for help from your friends, family (even employers), you will be surprised how many people care and are willing to step up and help you.

My ordeal started on 8 May, 2017, and because I took the incident to my family and the local Law enforcement agency right away, and reported each instance with meticulous documentation, my stalker was finally apprehended, and he confessed that he does not indeed know me in real life and “found” my profile on Facebook. He is currently cooling his heels in judicial custody for actions that he presumed would not have real life consequences. I can’t even find words to articulate how relieved I feel.

Obviously, that is not the end of the road – I am still on social media (at least some of them) and thanks to our dependence on the digital world, seemingly innocuous information about us like our names, our nicknames, our birthdays, details about our jobs/businesses, names/details of family members, our preferences, our political inclinations, our shopping habits, etc., can be mined and pieced together. All that is required is free-time and a fast internet connection. You’d be surprised how much of your lives is already available on public domain. A simple google search of your name will reveal everything that people can find about you with just your name and location. Due to apps like Google maps and uber, our daily routes are documented, not just that people you are connected to can geo-tag you and your location becomes visible to people you might not even know. Due to the ever-increasing target ads, companies can track and know your every activity down to the last key-stroke. And don’t even get me started about the dark web or hackers.

Jokes apart, I do hope that we become more aware about our privacy, or whatever is left of it.

Life in the 21st Century has become an Orwellian nightmare, perhaps even more twisted.

One thing is certain, every action has a consequence. Our online bully/troll/stalker is no phantom in the night, s/he is probably an unemployed person sitting alone feeling a false sense of superiority which is only due to the “anonymity” they think they have. It is very easy to type ugly words which are meant to cause terror in unsuspecting people, this is merely keyboard courage. Take away the security blanket of anonymity, and perhaps their bravado will be as non-existent as their other virtues. Isn’t it an age old saying, the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them!

Protect yourself always, and if you (like me) are inept with technology, educate yourself, and learn to protect yourself and your privacy, it’s a worthwhile investment of your time.

Until next time, stay safe.

Peace & Love

xo

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