Why Safer Internet Day is one of the most relevant holidays of our time

“Hallo, my name is Joan and the internet is my best friend.” It was her 25th day in the dingy room behind the auditorium where students usually met for peer to peer counseling services. 25th day but somehow it was still her bestie. Bruh! As I sat listening to her reciting the affirmations our counselor made us say every Friday night, I couldn’t help but internally laugh at the irony of it all.

That there are millions of people suffering from various life threatening addictions such as alcohol, heroine and even smoking and this century just managed to make one of its greatest inventions fall into that infamous list. That there’s probably people sitting with me on this wooden bench just waiting for the session to elapse so they could go to the local and partake in some Friday night shenanigans. That the internet posed a greater threat to one’s health than liquor and drugs. That it was the new drug people couldn’t live without was a bittersweet thought in my mind.

It was all too familiar to me. Sitting with these group of strangers I felt a higher sense of belonging than I ever did. Our stories were interconnected in one way or another and we had walked a somewhat similar journey all leading our stinking personalities to each other. Karma perhaps.

To breakdown the crowd, we can divide them into four groups. We had the socialites and IG models, the bloggers and you tubers, the meme-gang and the ‘I follow back’ trains. Quite amusing thinking about it really. We all found different reasons to cling onto the cheap thrill that the internet was. The pictures, the humor, the food, the discoveries, the internet served each of us fully. But as humanity often goes, the insatiability of our nature precedes us.

We can all agree that the internet, when used properly can reinforce our strengths to great lengths. Sadly however for the group of social media misfits we later came to be known as around campus, we used the internet for anything but. We had the hackers, the financial thieves and the sponsor babies posing on photos in slinky little pieces of clothes globe trotting among others.

I urgently wanted to scratch my butt in that poorly ventilated room filled with liquor and tobacco undertones but for the sake of reputation I turned my weight on the chair from one side to the next; pretending to adjust my sitting posture. Little known fact is that is my go-to public silent farting move.

I couldn’t help but think of all the fake lives we portrayed to live on social media. #forthegram am I right! Among us were people who had attempted suicide and others contemplating it because they weren’t as pretty or skinny as a girl they stalked all over the net. No one wanted to admit it, even in this open space we created for ourselves, but we were all perpetrators of stalking and harassment of some sort. The internet had the ability to provide us anonymity as we portrayed our worst side. Creating dummy accounts to troll, trash and shade people we didn’t like or agree with. Men sending unsolicited dick pics normally from India to show you “what your missing”. I mean sexual harassment just took a whole new level. Let’s not forget the jilted lovers who track down their exes using the internet to cause them harm or pain.

The meeting was important I reckon. It had been so far. I had gotten enlightened on all that could go wrong with internet use and what I could do to better my experience and that of others. As with everything, we are advised to exercise caution.

I have managed to stalk less people and post less fake posts from a vacation I went on more than 5 years ago. I am more aware of what my triggers are and how my actions affect others. I hope more people can be enlightened on the danger the internet poses and exercise healthy choices online.

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