In the age of social media that is rapidly evolving, it might appear that we are constantly waking up to new realities, some of which are deeply disturbing. But then, thanks to social media, we are now empowered the more to dig deeper into some of the vices that we did not realise had somehow found home among some of our more sublime human values like kindness, compassion, camaraderie and respect for all. This calls for a serious internalisation.
In recent years, the news and videos of bullies coming down on the weaker ones have been circulating online. Last year, a video clip of a bully hitting a man in Ngabephu in Thimphu and forcing him to kiss his shoes appalled the nation. Although not openly acknowledged, bullying happens everywhere in our society—in workplaces, schools, and in gatherings small and big. Perhaps informed and influenced by our culture of tolerance, we sometimes let it pass. Herein lies the danger.
When bullying happens to the young and vulnerable, consequences are often sad and painful. If we asked schools and colleges where bullying is more likely to happen, the answer would be that it doesn’t occur and that management and the authorities do not tolerate such thuggery in their campus. Yet a recent World Health Organisation study found that close to 30 percent of Bhutanese children are bullied in the schools. The number is worrying.
Being bullied is a predictor of mental health problems and substance use. According to the study, 19 percent of students attempted suicide due to bullying, 12 percent suffered from anxiety, 18 percent had to cope with loneliness, 30 percent took to smoking, 31 percent resorted to taking alcohol, and 14 percent used marijuana.
Bullying takes different forms, from physical bullying that includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property to verbal to social to cyberbullying. In the internet age that we live in, cyberbullying otherwise known variously as cyberharassment or online bullying which allows bullies to easily and anonymously harass victims online could have a detrimental effect on the young. This phenomenon, the greatest threat facing the young people in the west, has already begun seeping into our society.
This week, Thimphu police arrested a 20-year-old man and a videographer after the video of him bullying a minor went viral on social media. Public reaction was strong and called for immediate action on the perpetrators. The swift action by the police is commendable. However, there is a need to look beyond complaints and arrests. That the police are working “to ensure that every person in our country lives without fear of being attacked, victimised, or robbed at any point” is reassuring.
Posting pictures of the perpetrators to discourage them from committing a crime has not worked. It won’t ever. Awareness and education, on the other hand, could go a long way in addressing this problem among the young. We need humane approach and sensible actions while dealing with the urges and unhealthy temptations of the young.