The Internet was meant to bring people closer, make communication faster, and probably one of the most disruptive ideas that changed the world. With the advent of social media, the belief was the common people’s voice will gain more prominence in serious discourse. Over the years, social media has also become a tool for propaganda, vitriol, and cyberbullying. It’s not just public figures who are facing the onslaught; reports of cyberbullying have been on the rise against ordinary people, kids, students who are becoming victims of this kind of harassment daily. Often, left with little or no means to defend themselves.
Sonakshi Sinha is leading a campaign called ‘Ab Bas!’ to spread awareness on cyberbullying and also warns the abusers of the consequences of their bullying. The Dabangg actress recently deactivated her microblogging (Twitter) account as she believed that the platform was exposing her to ‘too much negativity’. In an exclusive conversation with us, Sonakshi expressed her thoughts, experiences, and the idea behind her campaign against cyberbullying. The actress feels cyberbullying is misusing democracy. “Cyberbullying and harassment are increasing day by day and it has become a huge issue.”
“People feel that by just hiding behind the screen they are anonymous and can say whatever they want to, and in whichever way they want. Definitely, democracy has been misused when it comes to social media and online harassment. People are really taking freedom of speech for granted and mistaking it for freedom to abuse – to which they don’t have a right. That’s why we are trying to create some awareness and what actions can be taken against those who perpetrate it,” Sonakshi said.
“I took a stand against bullying and have been at the receiving end of it ever since I have joined social media. A lot of famous personalities go through the same, irrespective of their field, be it sports or cinema. I really wanted to do something about it, create awareness, and inform people about the laws that are in place and what they can do. They don’t have to sit back and take it anymore. The online world is such a big part of our lives now and we spend so much time on it, there really needs to be a safe place where people can go and be themselves,” added the actress.
Bullying needs no criteria; it has no parameters and Sonakshi faced trolls and witnessed bullying even when she decided to take a stand against bullying. “Yes, I was trolled and bullied even for taking a stand against bullying. People without thinking of anything just go out there and vent their frustration. Especially during the lockdown as people have less to do which is why a lot more negativity and hate are coming out online. Initial thoughts are that it is battle but it’s definitely one that needs to begin and we need to fight back,” shared Sonakshi.
Taking a stand against anything needs a lot of patience and perseverance. However, Sonakshi thinks that the battle has just begun. She believes that if people come forward and help each other, a lot can change. “The battle has just begun and I am really happy with the response I have received for ‘Ab Bas!’. Many did not even know what could be done and what action could be taken against people who are harassing them online. We have received a lot of messages of gratitude. People have actually taken actions, received justice, and help from the authorities. If you help a person, that one person helps another 50 people in return. So, I am very proud that it has started,” emphasised Sonakshi.
After facing incessant trolling and cyberbullying on social media, the actress had recently put up a post that action will be taken. Commenting on it she said, “I was getting a lot of trolling and hatred for even the ‘Ab Bas!’ videos. It’s become a trend you don’t see what the person is posting or what they are doing, they just put hate out there. There have been complaints and FIRs that have been registered against certain abusers online and now the authorities will take necessary actions.”
There has been empirical evidence and studies that warn bullying leads to depression and low self-esteem and therefore Sonakshi firmly believes that online harassment shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Bullying leads to depression and low self-esteem. We had certain people on the show who have actually told us about what they have been through. We have heard people being driven to suicide because of online harassment and this is not something that should be taken lightly. To the victims, I would like to say that you are not alone and there are people, laws, and authorities in place who will help you. If you put one abuser behind bars and stop them from what they are doing, that person in return will not abuse 50, 100, or how many ever more people. It will be a great service that you are doing by complaining and taking action against them because we really need to clean up the internet. Some children are very impressionable and affected by all of this,” said Sonakshi.
Drawing a parallel with bullying and its impact on children, Sonakshi concluded the interview, “20% of children stop going to school because of online harassment. It is really up to people who go through it to take a stand, put their foot down and do something about it.”