Normalization of violence on social media could have dire consequences


Across a wide range of social media platforms, many people experience the persistent torment that is cyberbullying. Minorities being subject to constant harassment and discrimination on the internet is nothing new, and in this day and age, people are becoming more daring. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see someone threatening the life of someone else over something as insignificant as an opposing opinion.

Cyberbullying is nothing new and has been around since the earliest years of the internet. What calls for concern is the normality that people have associated with it and have come to accept as an everyday thing, rather than an abnormal occurrence.

“Have you seen a teenager without a phone? no. We’re always on the internet, social media, or something.” freshman Kezia Boateng said.

According to Techcrunch, 47 percent of kids admit to behaving differently online than offline. This statistic is nothing surprising. It is very easy for people to exploit the anonymity that technology provides. Today it is practically effortless to register an online profile pretending to be somebody else, be a specific age, or to be completely anonymous. Many people take advantage of the ability to create fake online personas and often in the most harmful ways.

Among the growing interest of social media giants such as Facebook, messenger, and Instagram there is one application that is making headway, ‘TikTok’.

The application ‘TikTok’ is a video-sharing app that has taken social media by storm. The application allows users to create and share 15 second-three minute videos of any topic ranging from dance videos to promoting products or campaigns. With currently over one billion active users ‘TikTok’ is a household name that many youngsters are familiar with.  

“TikTok in my opinion is like one of those apps you use when you get off work or school […] and chill,” said Boateng. “..But sometimes it can be a really bad habit because you can keep scrolling on your phone the whole day without doing anything productive.”

As TikTok users base grows, so do its negative aspects. One of them being, cyberbullying. Cyberbullying on TikTok has become a major issue, and no one seems to be concerned. It is not uncommon to find an entire comment section against a video creator. If  a creator is unlucky enough to get on the bad side of their audience, they are showered with hate comments and even met with videos mocking them.

In the TikTok world, the top comment is held in high regard. Just to have their own “15 minutes of fame” commentators will go as far to harshly ridicule video creators. The top comment is the comment with the most likes and recognition, and usually, the most agreed on. It is also typical for these bullies to create videos against the creator, and in the process rile up more people to further assault the video creator.

“Many users have taken advantage of the comment feature on the app, using it to criticize a creator’s video and content in a derogatory and uncivil manner.” said student journalist on The Register Forum, Esther Fu.

Screengrabs of TikTok star Charli D’amelio’s comment section

Throughout the years celebrities themselves have continued to join the app. Whether to promote themselves or just to interact with fans, celebrities made sure that they were in the loop. Unsurprisingly many cases of cyberbullying have occurred with celebrities as well. One of the well-known cases is with TikTok personality Charli D’amelio. Charli D’amelio broke the internet with her dance videos in 2019, and in the past year has a record of over 136.1 million followers. With this much recognition, D’amelio was subject to several hate comments which weren’t alarming and were normal for any TikTok video creator, but soon the several became many. 

“When it comes to influencers I usually just mind my own business,” Boateng said.
“I feel so bad for Charli [because] no one should be given hate, no matter the reason.”

For some time it had been a “trend” to not like Charli D’amelio, and it seemed like the majority of  TikTok users were against the TikTok star and ridiculed what she had achieved. The hate and harassment had taken a toll on the young star and she has come out multiple times speaking on it.

“A lot of people around my age, some younger, some older, are the prime ages for most types of bullying,”said D’amelio during a recent interview with Seventeen magazine.

“We all need to be more conscious of the things we say about people because it can really affect them[…]As a society, we definitely need to be more careful with our words and make sure we are treating people with kindness.”

Another similar case is with famous singer Taio Cruz who was deliberately bullied out of the app. Reportedly the singer had joined the platform to spend time and interact with his fans. Earlier this year Taio Cruz’s videos were hit with thousands of hate comments. Bullies would say things like he was only on the app to get “clout” or that his content was cringeworthy.

Taio Cruz’s letter explaining his experience on TikTok

The cyberbullying epidemic does not only affect the users of TikTok but is present on many social media platforms. Applications like Snapchat are also used as a way to spread rumors and make fun of other people. It’s very common to see bullying on Snapchat because of how messages and pictures disappear shortly after being sent. Bullies see this as a simple way to bully and take advantage of other people without any repercussions.

Several screengrabs depicting Snapchat bullying

There is so much to say about the various social media platforms and the cyberbullying that occurs there. There is no perfect platform, and we can not eliminate all cyberbullies in the world, but we can spread awareness about cyberbullying and its dangers and understand what to do when being targeted.

So, before you post that opinionated comment, read it over to yourself and ask yourself, am I being a bully? Don’t hesitate to step in and help anyone who is being harassed on the internet. There is almost no compassion on the internet these days, but you can be a voice of change and inspire others to do the same.