The last couple of weeks have been filled with a buzz of activities especially on the streets of social media. Internet users have taken to different platforms to share their frustrations, joys and uncertainties during the corona virus pandemic, trending hashtags I.e #covid19Ke, #CoronavirusImpactKE. With the Government of Kenya urging its citizens to work from home and stay home, internet usage in Kenya has steadily increased by at least 21%. And with so many people spending more hours on the internet, the rate of Cyberbullying in Kenya has shot through the roof on various social media platforms.
Cyberbullying isn’t a new subject to Kenyans online as most Kenyans have either experienced it first hand or are keyboard warriors themselves leading the trolls. Just recently, Bahati and Diana got themselves on the receiving end of online backlash, trending on twitter for more than two days as Kenyans savagely attacked them without a single drop of mercy. Check out some of the comments made online:
Social media users in Kenya are brutally savage in running the social media streets especially Kenyans on Twitter (KOT). KOT have gained a reputation of going hard on anyone who dares to cross their path. There isn’t an in between for KOT, they are either for you or against you. In fact they have been ranked as the worst cyberbullies on the platform by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Quite often, when celebrities make mistakes, social media users are quick to judge and make fun. Memes and challenges trend almost instantly. Remember the “KobiCat Challenge”? This challenge trended for weeks after an online user unmasked Kobi Kihara for faking an online presence. The most recent challenge is the “Sonko mask challenge”. It started out when Nairobi Governor stepped out wearing an unusual coronavirus safety gear. Kenyans took it up and made it up and made it a challenge.
Cyberbullying has negatively affected a lot of Kenyans online, causing people especially the youth to fall into depression and commit suicide. One story that hit the air waves on the effects of Cyberbullying was that of gospel singer Jimmy Gait. Shedding tears on live TV, he revealed how he almost quit music and killed himself due to online trolls. Mullamwah and Nadia Mukami are the most recent public figures to share their personal encounters on Cyberbullying. Both opting to take a break from social media for a while.
There are many other Kenyans who’ve recently gone through the cyberbullying road like News presenter Yvonne Okwara, Brenda the covid-19 patient and Nazziad the ‘Utaweza’ online challenge lady.
But why are Kenyans Cyberbullying each other amid a pandemic, really? Aren’t they aware trolling causes excess emotional strain on individuals already stressed out dealing with corona virus effects? Most people are facing enough challenges already, Cyberbullying shouldn’t be one of them.
Before you take up your phone to troll, remember you are possibly causing pain. Here are some effects of cyberbullying:
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of gadgets, digital communication and social platforms
- Inflicting self harm
- Suicidal and violent thoughts
- Personality shift I.e anger, depression, crying, withdrawal
However being online more may slightly mean that Cyberbullying may increase, whether through negative comments, threatening Dms or taunting posts. While you can not control peoples reaction to your content online you can make sure to; not blame yourself, delete and block, report negative activity to the platform the cyberbully used to target you, share your feelings with others and take time to unplug.
As we face this global pandemic as a country, let us not cause other people pain by Cyberbullying them. But instead we should be creating awareness on the dangers of Cyberbullying and promoting the importance of digital empathy and digital etiquette. Let’s all be morally cautious on the type of content we post online. #StopCyberBullyingKE