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How to deal with online harassment

By Nancy Nzalambi | June 28th 2020

Technology has made the world a lot smaller. Distance is only a physical issue. Every other thing can be accessed by the click of a button. Digital penetration has made social platforms more accessible to communication and interaction.

While there are many perks we enjoy from technology, online harassment can be very upsetting.

The effects of this online aggressive behaviour can range from insignificant rants that you can easily shake off to traumatising effects that beat you down despite your thick skin.  

Most of us know people who have been on the receiving end of a troll—or worse, we find ourselves there. According to the Pew Research Centre, 15 per cent of Internet users feel that their reputation was ruined as a result of online harassment.

The effects on online harassment can even trickle down to family members. Additionally, the internet makes us accessible to bullies 24/7. How should we deal with the emotional impact of online harassment?

Know the person chose to do so

Eveminet.co.ke describes cyberbullying as the use of the Internet and/or mobile technology to harass, intimidate or cause harm to another person. Whoever decides to harass you through the Internet does so intending to bring shame.

Although we have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, there are limitations when it comes to the rights of others. There are grounds where a person can be prosecuted for cyber harassment in Kenya thanks to the Computer Misuses ad Cyber Crimes Bill 2018.

Keep records of messages, texts, emails and other forms of communications that you feel are being used to harass you. You can decide to nip the harassment in the bud by reporting a cyber-bully to the authorities and you will have evidence to boot.

Do not wallow in humiliation

Even after the rough time is long gone, people do not feel fine immediately afterwards. For a matter of defamation, even after the culprit has been apprehended, you still feel the residual effects of the experience. An innocent remark in your direction could easily trigger familiar emotions of frustration and humiliation.

However, to ease the impact on your mental health, use the experience to develop a thick skin. Know that you are not immune to online trolls, but to get through them, you have to learn not get affected by them. Sometimes, people are just mean online; mainly because they do not know you directly and they can hide behind their online profiles.

Prioritise your health

Other than impacting your self-esteem, online harassment can give you sleepless nights, stress, eating disorders, headaches, stomach upsets and a host of other health issues. If you feel the criticism, rumours and lies are making you feel hopeless, find help from your support system.

If you feel that your health is taking a beating, see a doctor, a counsellor, so that the situation does not escalate to having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Do not ignore any symptoms that indicate you may be too affected. A counsellor can help you cope and redirect your thoughts to a healthier mindset.

Expand you view of life

Many times, we relate to life events based on experience. After all, it is said that experience is the best teacher. However, we should not allow unpleasant experiences to consume our thoughts. We tend to regret why we did not act promptly to the red flags. The past is gone. Leave it there.

Detach from the trauma

This is easier said than done. However, it has to be done for you to forge a new beginning. Part of this detachment could involve a new beginning at a different company/employer. 

For the benefit of your mental health, shift your focus to things that bring purpose in your life. Dedicate time to your spouse and children. Develop new skills, interests and review your goals.

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