Safer Internet Day 2020: a life broken by cyberbullying

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Far too many children around the world experience violence – often in places where they should feel safe. In a digital world, the violence that children face in their homes, schools and communities is often amplified through SMS messages, pictures, videos, email, chat and social media. The consequences of cyberbullying can be devastating and in extreme situations it has led to suicide.

Voices of Youth contributor Yeshna shared this story to mark Safer Internet Day (11 February 2020) about the harm that cyberbullying can cause to those who suffer it.

It’s a beautiful day and you just woke up. The sun is shining outside, and the birds are chirping. It’s a Friday and you check out your phone to see Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You are happy. Happy that you made it till Friday.

You start scrolling, and reading the comments people left you and there is that one comment that takes your breath away. You click on it and it’s from someone who keeps sending you hate comments everyday. You thought today would be different, but it was not.

You rolled out of bed, feeling broken again, and you stare at the screen of your phone. You cannot really see properly what’s on your screen because the view is blurred; from your tears. You stay there for a moment, do a pep talk, and then head downstairs for breakfast. You put up your most beautiful smile, and greet your parents before heading for school.

On your way to school, you keep thinking about what to do regarding this- is there a way to report this? If yes, how does this work? You do not know what this is called, but you have a gut feeling that this is not right. Unsure of what to feel and think, you then chase these thoughts away and get into the avatar of a high school student, wearing your best smile.  

You keep thinking about what to do- is there a way to report this? If yes, how does this work? You do not know what this is called, but you have a gut feeling that this is not right.

You are 16 years old. You like to volunteer at a women’s centre because you strongly believe in feminism. You feel sad when women get treated badly or when they do not get the same opportunities as men. It breaks your heart, when women are beaten, raped or simply killed because of their gender.

You feel angry, sometimes tired, and most of the times just sad. One day, you stumbled across a Twitter chat on women's issues, and you decide to participate in. The next day, you check back your Twitter again, and see rape threats. You closed your laptop in horror and chills. You do not know what to do. You feel scared.

You do not want to leave your room anymore. You spend your days in bed, and do not talk to people anymore. You quickly delete all the messages but they keep playing in your head. You feel drained. Your grades start to fall, and you slipped into depression.

One day, you decide that enough is enough, and you gather all your strength to tell your parents that you have been cyber-bullied.They tell you it's your fault, you should not have spent so much time online and they do not even understand why this made you upset. You start to blame yourself, and your heart break to pieces.

Days passed by, and you still do not know how to make your parents understand what you went through. You try your best to push that incident to the back of your memory, hoping that one day it will fade. But you know it won’t and will always form part of you.  

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© UNICEF/UN0314407/Pudlowski

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It’s graduation day. You wake up very early in the morning with butterflies in your stomach, you are so excited to graduate. You look at the cards and flowers people sent you; and you feel really happy to live that day. You put on your best dress, and go to receive your price. Your parents’ eyes are filled with pride, and they are crying tears of joy. You walk to the stage, and make your speech. Your friends are all clapping for you. This is the moment you made it.

You finally graduated after years of hard work and sweat. You feel really proud of yourself and extremely happy to see your parents proud of you. You are happy that you did that for your parents. Where you are from, girls are not encouraged to pursue a tertiary education but it was your dad who always supported you to do medicine and finally you are graduating as a doctor after 6 years.

Your family is not wealthy, but your dad worked his whole life and saved penny by penny to send you to medical school. You are happy that you finally made it and you got to live that day.  

There are far too many broken hearts. Too many broken -selves, too many broken lives and a lot of broken pieces. Too many lives have been taken because of cyberbullying. 

But that didn’t happen. You could not live that day, because you committed suicide because you have been constantly bullied in the past.

One day, you had enough and you took that drastic step. You felt like the world failed you and that your pain was sidelined, ignored, and disregarded. Cyberbullying seeped into your veins, pierced your skin, and killed you slowly like slow poison until you decided that you cannot live like this; hate comments written all over your body.  

There are far too many stories like this. Too many broken hearts. Too many broken -selves, too many broken lives and a lot of broken pieces. Too many lives have been taken because of cyberbullying.  

Noun: the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature 

A noun taken too lightly by society, tech companies and our parents, but very heavy to bear. Cyber bullying kills, destroys and washes everything away.  

If you are feeling sad or overwhelmed by cyberbullying, do not keep it to yourself - tell someone you trust. And if you are contemplating suicide, know it is never the answer. Please reach out to a trusted adult or organization for help right away, many countries have a special helpline you can call for free and talk to someone anonymously. More information here.

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