online harassment happens partly because people lose their inhibitions as soon as they go online

Online harassment: trolls exhibit ‘drunken’ behaviour

I shut the door behind me and start sprinting to the bus stop, but the 137 rushes by right past me. Almost on automatic pilot, I take out my phone and start scrolling on Instagram. My thumb lingers over the screen as I see a post about an amazing lady doing amazing things. I check the comments. “You go, girl!” “You are an inspiration to all!” And then…

“Go back to the kitchen!!!!!!”

I click on their profile. A private account. Their profile picture a random cat picture plucked off the internet. Following: a bunch of controversial accounts. Followers: none.

If there’s anything I find more problematic than online harassment, it’s the fact that these people mask their true identity. Internet trolls are teetering on the edge of being dumb enough to engage into this kind of bullying, but smart enough to know that they would face a backlash if their friends, family or employer would catch them spewing their BS on other people’s feed.

Intoxicated on the internet

Why do some people waste their time bothering others on the internet? As soon as we unlock our phones or log on to our computers, we move into a new space. You’re no longer in the room, you are in your own digital bubble, where you feel comfy and safe, hidden away behind a screen.

This (false) sense of safety is what leads some to act differently online, according to Mary Aiken, cyberpsychologist and author of The Cyber Effect. “People can lose their inhibitions and in a way act drunk, because, for some, being in the cyber environment can impair judgement and increase impulsivity, somewhat similar to the way alcohol can” When we’re online, we feel a certain sense of distance and anonymity, as well as a perceived lack of authority.

How to deal with online harassment:

  • Know that the conversations you see online don’t represent society as a whole. It’s usually the (drunk) loud mouths that speak up;
  • If you see a threat being derailed by internet trolls, spread the love by commenting something positive;
  • Always report the posts and comments you feel have crossed a line;
  • Choose your battles and don’t fight fire with fire: if you do feel the need to respond, remind the harasser that they are talking to a real human being. It sounds crazy, but they often forget this!

Cache me if you can

There is definitely less surveillance, and more opportunity to act like a total douche, but comparing the internet to a lawless jungle is a common misperception. We don’t see cop cars speeding through our social media feeds, but that doesn’t mean cybercrime and online harassment goes unnoticed.

Even in our online bubble, we leave behind our ‘digital DNA’ everywhere. The combined efforts of hate speech algorithms and human moderators make sure that comments get removed and fake accounts blocked. And in more extreme cases, the authorities are able to crack the code.

Someone being targeted by online harassment

It was only last week that 21-year old Brandon Fleury was announced to be facing US federal charges for using Instagram to harass, intimidate and threaten. He used several accounts like “nikolas.killed.your.sister” and “nikolasthemurderer” to consistently target family of some of the Parkland victims.

The Internet was created under values of equality, anonymity and freedom. As the line between our cyber-bubble and the physical space becomes blurrier each day, we need to be aware of how our behaviour online has real-life (offline) consequences. Let’s all work harder to make the internet a better place!

Fyre Festival Documentary shows the true power of influencer marketing

Fyre Festival Shows True Power of Influencer Marketing

 

The new Netflix documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened, shed light on how the most highly anticipated festival of 2017 was built on lies, empty promises and – Instagram. The festival was scheduled to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma over two weekends in April and May but was ultimately cancelled. After months of anticipation, the luxury paradise experience turned out to be severely mismanaged, if not a complete scam. How did so many people take the bait?

Influencers in the digital space

Did your parents tell you not to talk to strangers on the Internet when you were younger? Since then, the internet landscape has changed tremendously, and so has user’s online behaviour. Initially, we used social media as a tool to connect with our friends. Now, more than ever, we’re reaching out to beyond people we have offline relationships with. You’re probably not only talking to strangers on the internet nowadays, but following them too!

Clearly, our trust in others online has increased. Research by Dutch scholar Marjolijn Antheunis suggests that making more digital connections ultimately leads to an increased sense of togetherness between online users. Ordinary Instagram users have amassed thousands of followers doing ordinary things, simply because people are moving to the online sphere to find their community. In some cases, these social media ‘influencers’ are considered to be a part of their followers daily life and an extension of their existing social circles. We now trust strangers on the internet and it shows: 92% of consumers trust an influencer’s opinion about a product or service – someone they have never met in real life.

Fyre Festival frenzy

So what do you get if you put 10 of the most popular Instagram models on a paradise island in a promo video for an exclusive festival experience? A full-blown social media hype. After the video was launched, another 400 Instagram influencers posted nothing more than an orange tile with #fyrefestival in the caption, reaching millions of followers. “Who was playing, what the food was gonna be, all the things that typically sell a music festival wasn’t a sales point. This was like selling a dream, selling a trip, selling a concept”. And this was a concept no one wanted to miss out on: within 48 hours, 95% of the tickets were sold, with VIP packages selling for as much as $12,000.

Upon arrival, the festival-goers immediately realized they were essentially sold hot air. They were transported by regular Boeing 737’s instead of private jets, luxury accommodation turned out to be FEMA disaster relief tents, and the cuisine consisted of dry cheese sandwiches. Within hours, the promised paradise dream turned into a Lord of the Flies-style nightmare. The organisers had no choice but to cancel the event.

Should we blame Kendall Jenner for selling millennials all over the world nothing more than an illusion? The Fyre documentary is a reminder of the remarkable power of influencer marketing, and anything too powerful eventually becomes regulated. After the backlash of the Fyre Festival disaster, new legislation has been introduced to ensure the transparency of influencer marketing. Despite our Instagram celebrities now having to disclose their paid promotion by using #ad or #spon, influencer marketing is here to stay, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

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