Community Leaders Take: Online Body Shaming

Written by Ruth Atim, Digital Grassroots Community Leader from Uganda

Image credit to 0800-What's Up?

 "I do believe that online behaviour is often an extension of, or is similar to, social behaviour in the face-to-face world. Any investigation into what we see in a social network site probably should not stop there. The online "evidence" could be the latest development in a long chain of reaction."
Cyber bullying and online body shaming is very common and involves hurting someone else using information and communication technologies which in this case uses the Internet. This always include sending harassing messages (via text or Internet), posting reproachful comments on a social networking site, posting humiliating pictures, or threatening/intimidating someone electronically.

This is a huge problem within my community because it spreads fast and reaches an unlimited audience within a short time. I discovered the extent of this through a survey I undertook as part of the Digital Grassroots Community Leaders program. In the survey, I asked questions that ranged from Internet problem/challenges within the community, what can be done to stop it and most of the respondents were women who have in one way or the other been bullied online or body shammed. This partly came as a result of the trove of personal information online which made it easier for online trolls to launch an attack and for the perpetrators to personally know their victims. (This could also be friends or relatives or acquaintances).

"In this regard, I do expect each person to be a stakeholder in his or her own wellbeing online and offline, as well as the wellbeing of his or her peers and of their community."

Image credit to weheartit, user @enjoylife98  

Further, perpetrators of cyber bulling do not see the faces of their target and subsequently may not understand the full consequences of their actions and this makes them confident behind that device as they intentionally torture their victims.

I have interacted with a few persons who were body shamed. The experience is very humiliating, with often painful, long-term consequences. The mockery stigmatizes the victim thus tearing down their self-respect and perpetuating the harmful idea that their unique physical appearances should be compared to airbrushed notions of 'perfect'.

According to the survey, some victims of body shaming were forced to put their bodies under a lot of pressure to either gain or lose weight which sometimes cannot be achieved especially when doing it under the influence of peer pressure. Cyber bulling and online body shaming are two of the most common Internet problems in my community and with the support of my mentors and network within the DIGRA community, I will forge ways of doing away with it.

Since I am also in the media, I will take advantage of that to air messages that point of the effects of these two problems to its victims and also use social media to campaign against online body shamming and Cyber bulling.


Written by Ruth Atim, Uganda / Digital Grassroots Community Leader
Edited by Hadassah Louis

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