Cyberbullying takes place over digital devices like cellular phones, computers, and tablets.
It includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. Celebrities are no exception when it comes to online bullying because just by being in the limelight, they are under more scrutiny than ordinary folks. Recently, celebrity couple Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane and his girlfriend Marang Molosiwa were scheduled to be part of DStv’s couple CookOff competition on Valentine’s Day. They immediately became targets of Twitter trolls as they were bullied, trolled and mocked for their age difference. They eventually pulled out from the competition and a day later during the Cookoff, legendary rapper Game ‘Zeus’ Bantsi was next on the list as people made remarks about his weight loss. Zeus was struck down by the emotional keystrokes of cyber-bullets and on Monday he released a heartfelt press statement addressing his abusers.
“It is with great concern that this morning I awoke to find social media posts regarding my health. To see the spirit in which some of the news was conveyed was very shocking to me. I would like to state that I am in good health and I have not been diagnosed with any terminal illness,” read the statement. Zeus said the power of social media can be used for good and often people choose to use it to spread false rumours. “I am a human being just as much as anybody else and I have a family and friends who have access to social media platforms and I ask that you bear that in mind as well. They get affected by false and unfounded rumours,” he disclosed.
Zeus further said what is supposed to be a positive life journey has now been turned into vitriol. “Body shaming is not something that we as people should condone or take part in.” He further advised people to tread carefully when on social media as cyberbullying and spreading false rumours and unfounded news is an offence punishable by law. He said being on social media should not be used as a tool to hide behind screens and spread misinformation.
In its nature, cyber abuse is nasty and violates a person’s dignity and self-esteem. It is not just Zeus but celebrities worldwide who are victims of this huge problem. Cyberbullying can have a catastrophic impact on victims, even ordinary people. People have lost jobs, relationships, businesses and even their lives due to online cruelty. And just like it has shown with Zeus, being a celebrity doesn’t make one immune from the power of cyberbullies.
Just late last year, BTV Flava Dome presenter Sadi Dikgaka faced a lot of condemnation and body shaming. After being harassed and shouldering this entire backlash, Dikgaka in a video said people got to see that social media is a powerful tool and if used recklessly it could actually destroy so much.
She said people tend to have a thought that maybe if one is a public figure then they have to have a certain image and look. Dikgaka added that there are days when she hits the nail at the end of the head and there are days when she doesn’t but at the end of the day life has to go on.
“For those of us who had negative things to say it is okay, may love find you and may you be content with the fact that perfection is an illusion and subjective to whomever it is”.
Dikgaka said one’s idea of perfection could never be the same with hers that’s why she believes in being authentically herself. She said she was sorry people didn’t like the jumpsuit she wore but she will do better regardless of
Dikgaka further revealed that people having an opinion about her body does not take away from her. These days after being trolled and body shamed, Dikgaka has become a strong advocate for body positivity. Indirectly, now her online platform includes shutting down body shaming through marketing various clothing brands.
Another celebrity who has been battling an on and off online abuse is Botswana’s most decorated musician, Vee Mampeezy. He is one of the most followed people on Facebook in Botswana, but he had become obsessed with negative comments to an extent of addressing them directly in a live video. Despite hundreds of positive messages he receives, negative comments about his marriage, political stance and musical abilities get to him. Having dealt with his fair share of haters during his lengthy career, Vee Mampeezy cannot stomach the viciousness of online bullying.
Late last year, fans got to him after they renamed him Veenimbi due to his association with late Zimbabwean businessman Genius ‘Ginimbi’ Kadungure. Last month, the letlhale hitmaker decided to address his critics in a live Facebook video. Vee Mampeezy was visibly furious at people who talk about his bad English grammar and marital problems.
“Do not come here and expect me to write English the way they do at the Ministry of Education. I am an artist, sometimes I use slang, motswako”. Vee Mampeezy said he will never listen to anyone because they are limiting his creativity. In relation to a tiff he had with his wife Kagiso Sento, Vee Mampeezy said it is surprising to see people celebrating his marital woes.
Vee Mampeezy was clearly distraught and decided to use a social media rant to address users who were abusing him in his own page. At some point Vee Mampeezy wrote that people who criticise everything he does should unlike his page but later deleted the Facebook post. In other countries like the U,S some celebrities have restricted comments on their social media handles to stay away from negativity. While some people often advice celebrities to ignore online rants, ignoring such abuse sometimes leads to an increase in bullies. Many of these bullies hide behind false profiles but the police are known to crack down on such abusers. Just two months ago in December 2020, the Minister of Defence Security and Justice, Kagiso Mmusi told Parliament that 38 cases of cyberbullying related offences have been recorded since the enactment of the Cybercrime and Computer Related Act of 2018.
He said out of the 38, 27 cases were recorded under offensive electronic communication offence. Mmusi however said the Cyber-crime and Computer Related Crimes Act did not have a specific offence of ‘Cyber bullying’.
He noted that Cyber-harassment, Cyber-stalking and Cyber-extortion were provided for in the Act under section 16, 17 and 14 respectively as they had elements and similarities to cyber-bullying. Mmusi also said while the act is new, no limitations had been identified in relation to warranting interventions. Mmusi was responding to a question from specially elected MP, Unity Dow.
Researchers show that cyber-bullying raised the risk of self-harm or suicidal behaviour 2.3 times. It could be about one’s looks, the dress they wore or a mere expression.
Online abusers are known to target exactly what a person dislikes about themselves already, making cyber-bullying even more cruel. But as this trend of abusing celebrities on social media continues, it is a tendency that has long started since more people began to access social media.