The Devils of the digital World
The Devils of the digital World
Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” And here you are, in a digital world, possibly unimaginable a few decades ago, probably reading this article on your laptop, a tablet computer or a mobile phone. But there are two sides to every coin, and while the digital world provides several advantages, a major one of them being accessibility of content around the globe, it also has its drawbacks or ‘devils’.
Pornography, also known as porn, is the portrayal of sexual matter in the form of photographs, films, sound recordings, etc for the sole purpose of one’s sexual arousal. Today, pornographic material has become very easily accessible, thanks to the internet. Statistics show that 42 million porn websites are currently in existence, which totals around 370 million pages of porn, while 28,258 users are watching pornography every second and 1 in every 5 mobile searches is for pornography. What’s worse is the perception of porn around the globe. 90% of teens and 96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral when they talk about porn with their friends, whereas just 55% of adults above 25 years of age believe that porn is wrong. Addiction to pornography has a large number of adverse effects on individuals. In 2014, a Cambridge University study found that pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts in the same way drugs trigger drug addicts. Viewers may find themselves to be compulsive, distressed, or both. The study also found that younger the age of viewing, more were the long-term effects on the individual’s brain. Pornography also encourages self-gratification and may cause erectile dysfunction in men. It is known to encourage social isolation, hampers goal setting skills and may even destroy an individual’s values, if addicted.
Cyberbullying is a form of harassment that takes place using electronic means. It can occur on social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can also include sharing personal or private information about someone, in order to cause embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line and turns into criminal behaviour. Popular forms of cyberbullying may include cyber-flashing, which consists of sending obscene pictures to strangers via AirDrop (on iOS devices) and Bluetooth (on Android devices) and online exhibitionism, wherein one exposes one’s private parts for amusement, satisfaction or to shock the victim. Cyberbullying has been found to be the most prevalent in India, with 37% parents stating that their child has experienced it in some form, followed by Brazil, United States and South Africa. According to statistics, 42% of people who use Instagram have been subjected to online harassment, making it the most popular social media platform for cyberbullying. Harassment includes, in decreasing order of popularity, offensive name calling, spreading false rumours, receiving explicit images that were not asked for, constant need to know where someone is/what they are doing (other than a parent) and physical threats. Victims of cyberbullying are found to have lower self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, and a variety of emotional responses, including being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed, especially teenagers, in whom it is most prevalent. Cyberbullying is an intense form of psychological abuse, whose victims are more than twice as likely to suffer from mental disorders compared to traditional bullying, as there is no escape from it as compared to traditional bullying, and also because social media allows bullies to disconnect from the impact they may be having on others. One of the most damaging effects is that a victim begins to avoid friends and activities, which often fulfils the intention of the bully. Most of the time cyberbullying goes unnoticed as the younger generation hides their bullying from anyone that can help to prevent the bullying from occurring and from getting worse. The youth slowly change their behaviour and become more withdrawn and quieter, but this may go unnoticed since the change is subtle. If preventive measures are not taken against cyberbullying, younger children in addition to teenagers will feel lonely and depressed along with having significant changes in their eating and sleeping patterns as well as loss of interest in their normal activities, which will affect their growth and development into adulthood.
3. Graphic violence
The depiction of violence in a vivid, brutal and realistic manner in visual media is known as graphic violence, where the term ‘graphic’ is used as a synonym to the word ‘explicit’. Exposure to graphic violence online is increasing as the days go by due to films, video games and other visual content that is made easily available, as well as promoted and circulated. Commonly included depictions may include murder, assault with a deadly weapon, accidents which result in death or severe injury, suicide, and torture. A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, found that, out of 153 males, those who watched the most violent programmes as children were more likely 15 years later “to have pushed, grabbed, or shoved their spouses, to have responded to an insult by shoving a person” or to have been “to have been convicted of a crime” during the previous year. Girls who watched the most violent television were also more likely to commit similar acts as young women. These effects persisted after controlling for other risk factors for aggression, such as parental aggression and intellectual ability. Graphic violence arouses strong emotions, ranging from excitement to revulsion and even terror, depending on the mindset of the viewer and the method in which it is presented. Many believe that exposure to graphic violence leads to desensitization to committing acts of violence in person. Effects on children include reduced sensitivity toward others, being more fearful, and behaving more aggressively. In a recent study, adolescents who had high exposure to violence in online media, besides behaving more aggressively, also showed reduced levels of cognitive brain function, meaning that the parts of the brains involved in thinking, learning, reasoning, and emotional control were less active than in adolescents who had lower exposure to violence. Children and adolescents, who form a major part of the online viewing audience, are also especially vulnerable because they typically do not have the broad world view or self-soothing skills necessary to cope with the distress induced by witnessing violence and cruelty. Children also tend to exhibit long term effects into adulthood, with highly aggressive children more likely to become violent criminals.
As the impact of the issues mentioned above is gradually being made well known to the world, a number of laws, and strategies such as censorship, have been suggested in order to minimize the effects of the evils mentioned above, in various countries. If adopted correctly, one step at a time, by every individual, one can hope to witness these ‘devils’ being banished from our digital world in the future. After all, Steve Jobs once said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”