Social media has made it ridiculously easy for people to take pot-shots at others. Even celebrities are falling victim to cyber-bullying. The latest victims are the high-profile former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen, and her beau Lalit Modi, who has also been in the public eye.
As soon as Lalit Modi went public about their relationship, posting pictures of their international vacation together, practically the whole world jumped in, either anonymously or identifying themselves, and used the opportunity to take snide digs at romance at a mature age, or to label Sushmita a ‘gold digger’. (A few did come to the defence of the actress, pointing out that she has established herself in society as a self-made woman, and has no need to date Lalit Modi for his wealth; and Sushmita herself took to social media to give a fitting reply to her detractors).
We talk to people from different spheres of life about the trending toxicity on social media.
"Why is everybody concerned about others' lives? Why are they getting involved just to troll them?" asks actress Raadhika Sarathkumar. "I find it very disturbing. I would not like to take others' opinions on my happiness and life seriously."
Renowned dermatologist Dr. Vidya Ram Pradeep says, "Sushmita and Lalit are mature adults and those who sit behind their social media accounts cannot be judgemental about their private lives, however ‘public’ their lives may be." She also notes that of late, everyone, irrespective of their gender or who they are, is subjected to online bullying.
Celebrities get a lot of media attention – that’s something that goes with the territory. However, the publicity can irk their detractors. "The success of a self-made woman can create jealousy, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Sushmita is getting attacked online," Vidya adds.
Rachit Seth, a Communications Consultant, says, "Social media has become so toxic. Everybody is interested in everybody else's life. This is like Peeping Tom Syndrome. You will not see any of these online bullies have a direct go at Lalit or Sushmita. But using anonymity as a cover, these people are showing their real colours online. I believe there should be some kind of Laxman Rekha with regard to how far a person can go into someone else's affairs, whether a celebrity or a commoner. These online 'keyboard warriors' should have civic sense and act responsibly."
As a psychologist, Dr. Mini Rao is specially aware of how toxic online spaces have become, particularly for women. "Some people are very unhappy to see others happy. Why can't Lalit Modi and Sushmita get together? They want to be happy. Why don't these online haters let them be? There's some kind of weird envy that people carry with them, and when they see someone happy, minding their own business, they let out this envy in the form of memes and trolls," she says.
Pushpanjali Banerji, Brand Director, Kyndal Group, points out that on Facebook there is an automated option to make positive comments about the photos and posts put up by friends. "You are even prompted about what to type," she says, adding, "But when it comes to a stranger or a celebrity or even a good-looking successful woman, people transform into trollers. Where has the love gone? Rather than celebrating someone's new beginnings as in the case of Sushmita and Lalit Modi, people are acting very immature."