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!

Bumble BFF allows you to meet new friends by just the touch of a button

I used an app to make friends – here’s how it went:

There are certain things in life you only seem to appreciate once you don’t have them anymore. Like being able to breathe normally when you’re coming down with a cold. Or first moving out of your parents’ home, only to find out the fridge doesn’t magically restock itself. I had a similar realisation when I moved into my flat in Brixton – how amazing is it to just have friends?

Let me clarify: most of your friendships are organic right? They just came into your life at the right time. You never actually sat down and asked them “so, what are we?” It just happened. It’s only after moving to a different country that I realised I needed to do this thing all over again. But how?

So, somewhat reluctantly, I typed ‘how to make friends in London’ into Google, hit enter, and stumbled upon Bumble BFF.

Having done research on online dating in Morocco, I know a fair bit about all the platforms out there. And to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about getting back on them. However, since Google autofilled my ‘how to make friends in London’ search query, I figured there must be tons of people just as clueless as me. So, I downloaded the app, set up my profile, and got swiping. Here’s how it went:

Setting up a profile feels weird

That’s when I first hit a wall. On a regular dating profile, people often want to come across as desirable and interesting as possible (not judging, we’re all guilty of doing this). I, however, wasn’t trying to lure someone into my bed – I came here to find a partner in crime. But what kind of profile would make someone say “wow I totally want to be friends with her”? This is what I settled on:

My own Bumble BFF profile

…but not as weird as swiping left (or right)

Looking for a friend to work out / drink prosecco / have brunch / watch Netflix / go dog-spotting with? You’ll find your match in no time. Even if you’re more into niche activities, from smashing the patriarchy to cross-stitching, your new BFF is out there!

If you feel like this Bumble BFF is full of weird people that are not able to make friends – think again. On the app I came across a lot of ladies who were new to London and therefore looking to meet some new people, but everyone had their own story and reason to use Bumble BFF. People drift apart, fall out, or might just be in different life phases.

I’ve always felt that with online dating you’re not really swiping left or right on them as a person, but the image they have created of themselves. So, no hard feelings if it isn’t a match! Looks obviously don’t matter if we’re talking friendship, and it just felt a little judgemental swiping left based on a couple of lines.

So my activity looked a little like this:

via GIPHY

CHATTING UP A FRIEND IS HARDER THAN IT SEEMS

“YOU HAVE A MATCH”. First, there was excitement, then there was terror. The good news is that on this platform, you won’t be sent any creepy pick-up lines. Instead, you’ll usually be met with complete silence. Which I get, because starting a conversation is tricky when there aren’t any rules to this game. There are so many ways to go about this, from completely oversharing to “so… have you seen Birdbox?” Luckily, I wasn’t alone on this one, and once the ice was broken, I got some pretty good conversations out of it.

There’s this thing called a Mate Date: and I went on one.

But where to go from here? A couple of days into my Bumble ad-friend-ture I started to wonder what would be right time to ask my Bumble BFF if she wanted to hang out. I was ready to make a bold move, but she actually got ahead of me. Before I was able to overthink this, we made plans to meet at a cocktail bar in the South of London.

Was I nervous? A little bit. Did I need to be? Absolutely not. At the beginning it did feel a little bit date-y. And you can’t distract the other person from your shit personality by seductively sipping your drink – it really is all about that connection and friendship potential! Luckily, we hit it off from the beginning, and had a fabulous time getting to know each other. Fast forward two hours, I was eating a chippy in her kitchen and happily chatting away with her flatmates before all heading to a house party. “Is she a serial dater?” I asked one of them. “No, you’re actually the first she brought home!” he replied.

Bumble BFF is here to stay

With our second mate date planned for next week, I can honestly say that I’m super happy that I tried out this tech-y new way of making new friends. If there’s anything I learned from this experience, it’s that there will always be people open to new friendships, and you’re not weird for actively looking for one. Whatever your thoughts on online dating are, we can’t deny that technology has facilitated some amazing new ways to meet like-minded people with the touch of a button. Would you give it a go?

group of people meeting

Why we should stop asking people what they do

In less than three months I’ll be swapping in my home country for another. It’s an exciting next step that I feel comes at exactly the right time: I’ve graduated, am not completely anchored to a job and most of all, ready for a change  after living in the Netherlands for 22 years.

“Yay, London, that’s great! Already know whereabouts?”

“Nah, I’ll see”, I shrug, completely unfazed.

“Have you found a job yet?

“No I haven’t”

“Oh, but you must have something in mind that you want to be doing there, right?”

I answer with another negative, now feeling slightly self-conscious.

Having had the same talk with friends, colleagues and family over the past months, I’ve noticed this pattern occurring dozens of times. And it makes sense, because I’m obviously not going to be sitting on a bench staring at the Big Ben for the rest of my life. They want to know what I’ll be spending my time on.

Here’s what we seem to be forgetting:

A week, last time I checked, consisted of 168 hours.

A work-week, averages 36-40 hours.

“What do you do?” is probably the most frequently  asked question (excluding all weird Google searches) out there. For a question that ambiguous, we probably all have a carefully prepared answer that we are able to recite as effortlessly as the Pokemon theme song.

“I’m a manager at a local electronics store”

“I’m a student at X University, studying North-American History”

“I’m currently unemployed”

Congratulations, you have just learned how random person at houseparty A,B, and C, spend 23.8% of their time! Maybe you now have an indication of their monthly paycheck, if that matters to you.

via GIPHY

Do I sound a little salty? Maybe, but what I’m trying to point out is that you’ll discover surprisingly little about that person, while at the same time pigeonholing them into a degree, or job title. I’m a social media marketeer 23.8% of the time, but in my spare time, I stay to stay away from Facebook and Instagram as much as possible. I don’t like talking about algorithms, influencers and Mark Zuckerberg in my free time.

Mini challenge: Next time you’re at a party and meet something new, and they ask you what you do, try and give them a honest answer (of course, only share what you want to share).

I’ll go first: I work as a (see how I didn’t say I am?) social media marketer for a small tech startup, I run and do yoga a couple times a week, and I love putting words down on paper in any way, shape, or form.

Some would be delighted to answer that question for you, however, raving on about their job, their challenges and projects. These people are either truly passionate about what they do (in their 23.8% space) or also associate their job with whatever they do in their free time. If you consider yourself part of this group, you’re lucky, because not everyone feels this way.  There definitely is a certain privilege in doing what you love

Regardless, isn’t it way more fun to talk about what you do and who you are in your free time? The time we all seem to enjoy most out of the week? Of course, talking about your job is not a taboo, a detail in our life that we must try and bury! Just know that you are so much more than that, and so are others.

Doing what you love goes beyond our 40-hour work week, so let’s focus on that.

Mini-challenge: At that same party, try to find the one thing that make their eyes sparkle with joy and excitement. Is it a book they recently read? Their pet guinea pig? Crossfit? Collecting stamps? Salt & Vinegar crisps?

By (literally) changing the conversation, we get rid of the idea that our job is the singular most important in our daily lives, and we focus on the things that give us pleasure, rather than what gives us stress.

 

So, what do you do?