The Internet is a mass medium of communication that reset the boundaries of live as we know it. Internet promotes synchronous and asynchronous communication as well as multicast and point-to-point communication. Indeed, it’s one of human’s most fascinating creations. The internet made a virtual world possible; people can now live in pixels and have a life on the cyberspace. The thought of it is exciting and it might give people a break from reality for a while, but it can also run out of hand and turn into a very realistic nightmare. Communication through virtual worlds-or cyber space in general-has highly promoted cyber bullying. Over 25 percent of adolescents were a victim of cyber bullying through the Internet or their phones at least once.
One of the most famous cases of cyber bullying is the cyber rape case of Mr.Bungle where a character named Mr. Bungle in the virtual world LambdaMOO used a voodoo doll tool to force the characters Legba and Starsinger into crude and violent sexual actions in the middle of a busy room.Legba, in real life a doctoral candidate from Haverford, Pennsylvania and a long-time LambdaMOO user was really traumatized from the incident. She even posted “I am requesting that Mr. Bungle be toaded for raping Starsinger and I. I have never done this before, and have thought about it for days. He hurt us both.”(A Rape in Cyberspace)
Jullian Dibble discussed the incident in her book My Tiny Life:
[W]hile a certain tension invariably buzzes in the gap between the hard, prosaic RL [real-life] facts and their more fluid, dreamy VR [virtual reality] counterparts, the dissonance in the Bungle case is striking. No hideous clowns or trickster spirits appear in the RL version of the incident, no voodoo dolls or wizard guns, indeed no rape at all as any RL court of law has defined it. The actors in the drama were university students for the most part, and they sat rather undramatically before their computer screens the entire time, their only actions a spidery flitting of fingers across standard QWERTY keyboards. No bodies touched. Whatever physical interaction occurred consisted of a mingling of electronic signals sent from sites spread out between New York City and Sydney, Australia. (Dibbell 450)
As Dibbel mentioned, the characters were not physically raped, and no law can rule against the rapist and protect the victim’s owner because, technically, there was no real bodily harm. Being physically fine does not mean that the abused character weren’t harmed psychologically. “…perhaps the body in question is not the physical one at all, but its psychic double, the body like self-representation we carry around in our heads — and that whether we present that body to another as a meat puppet or a word puppet is not nearly as significant a distinction as one might have thought.”(Dibbel 23) The characters we create in the cyber world are our doppelgangers; they resemble us on a deep psychological level. For that, the cyber rape incident was truly traumatizing to the two other users.
In another case, a journalist called Clementine Ford was bullied and threatened by several men online after standing up of a bully on Facebook. After Kerri caused a man who bad-mouthed her to get fired from his job in a hotel as a result of his disrespect to her, Kerri started receiving death threats online. Another feminist called Eliza Cussen tweeted the following”A man published my home address and told me he was en route to rape me because of my feminist writing. #endviolenceagainstwomen.”Then she followed up with a tweet saying that the police asked her what she did to initiate such a threat. These misogyny-filled actions were certainly not tolerated by feminists around the world, and the Australian column writer Kerri Sackville launched the hashtag #EndViolenceAgainstWomen to draw the attention to cyber bullying and various other hostile behaviors women all around the world are subjected to everyday.
The media is a medium of both negativity and positivity. It can launch a feminist campaign that helps women, or spread awareness concerning HIV. It can help a couple spread the word that they are pregnant with their first child. However, the media could also spread evil just as fast. Cyber bullying has been ending lives for the last century or so. A twelve-year old jumped to her death after being bullied on various social media applications by girls telling her to “Go kill yourself” or “Why are you still alive?”(Al Jazeera America). A child who is barely a pre-teen is now dead because of hate posted on the media. Can you imagine a crueler scenario? How about adolescents who get blackmailed with their nude pictures all the time? What’s posted on the cyber web can certainly be deleted, but the junk always manages to pop back up and it will forever remain in the victim’s mind. Researchers show that 20% of kids cyberbullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 attempt it (Cyber Bully Hotline).
It is clear that many kids and even adults can’t cope with the emotional demands of social media or instant communication since it makes it easier for people to get to you and get into your head. This ability of instant and easy communication is a double-edged pocket knife that can traumatize us humans greatly; it can keep us close to our loved ones and quench our social thirst, or kill the social butterfly in us and make us an easy target to whoever wants to harm us. It all depends on the maturity level of both parties: the sender and the receiver. The cyber is a mean machine that can be of great use or great harm. Use it wisely. Don’t ever put yourself out there as a prey for the bullies. Defend yourself on the web as well as others who are rendered defenseless. Control the media before it enslaves you.