Initially, I could not fathom as to why I felt uncomfortable when I received his messages telling me how ‘cute’ or ‘hot’ I was. I would never understand as to why I would turn around if I saw him walking towards me in the corridor in college. There was always a sense of unease which enveloped me when I met/saw him in person. I always shrugged him off – kept my distance, avoided him. But he would always turn up time and again – in the cyberspace and my physical surroundings.
But one day I realised that it was not so easy to ignore him. I happened to have a look at his phone and saw he had saved screenshots of a lot of girls’ photographs from WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and was showing off the pictures of his ‘crushes’. By no means was he feeling guilty of this – breaching someone’s privacy. On my objecting to this, he snapped back saying that I should be happy he didn’t have mine. I realised it was just a matter of time!
Soon, he began sending me screenshots of any post/picture I was tagged in/was a part of on any social media platform. The messages that now accompanied them were not just (apparent) compliments but questions – when did I go to this place? Why didn’t I invite him too? etc. It then struck me that he was indeed keeping a tab on my activities or rather stalking me.
The question that now arises is that what did I do in the face of it all? I ignored it.
Maybe he was just kidding? Because he would always send me ‘laugh out loud’ emojis at the end. Maybe I was just blowing it out of proportion? After all, he was my ‘friend’!
But all of it continued and multiplied. I was being given creepy looks whenever I passed him by. I would be “complimented” when we would meet. I was told how dearly he missed me. And now, because I chose to ignore his texts he would pester me with a series of messages trying to compel me to reply back. He annoyed me, to say the least. But there wasn’t really anything I could still do. Yes, I felt so helpless. Because I knew even if I blocked him on the social media sites, he would still be a part and parcel of my physical existence. How could I block him from my immediate surroundings?
Soon my helplessness grew into anger. I snapped each time he messaged. And quite surprisingly, since I had stopped acquiescing, he questioned me as to what was wrong with me. He wanted to know why I had stopped talking to him the way I did. But nothing deterred him. He would still send me screenshots. He would still tag me in irrelevant posts. And at the end of it, send me ‘laugh out loud’ emojis as if it was all just a sport. I was in a fix. Is he really my ‘friend’ when he cannot abstain from all this even when explicitly told so? I finally blocked him even though I feared confronting him in person.
Very soon, in a conversation with one of my female friends it came up how he had been doing the same to her as well! So, it wasn’t just me. She too was receiving messages, screenshots and was being tagged against her wish. I wonder how many more were there.
Ours is a long drawn battle. I don’t know when we shall be able to get over it. Blocking is a way out, no doubt, but we don’t know for how long. But, a few things need to be addressed right away… Is it okay if it’s in the cyber space? Does being a friend or an acquaintance give you the license to get away with anything? Do we stay quiet if the perpetrator/harasser is a friend or an acquaintance? Do we wait for the cyber harassment to transcend into offline harassment for us to acknowledge it? Is the online not the ‘real’?
Note: This blog post has been written as a part of the campaign ‘Online Hai Toh Fine Hai‘ which is being run by our Breakthrough interns ( Summer internship 2017).