Beware! Cyber bullying can turn deadly

Cyber bullies can hide behind a mask of anonymity online, and do not need direct physical access to their victims to cause unimaginable harm.

— Anna Maria Chavez, American inspirational speaker

This is a tragedy, a tragedy of tragedies really. I could not believe it, even after reading the news report, “Mother of 3 found dead after receiving hateful TikTok comments” last Sunday.

Shashikala Nadarajah, 44, a popular TikToker was found dead at her home in Subang Jaya, Selangor after receiving a barrage of hateful comments on her widely followed account.

According to Sinar Daily, she was reportedly “cyber-bullied” over her appearance and handbag collections on the social media account.

Her fellow TikToker, Rose Veronica, revealed that Shashikala’s children told her that their mother could not tolerate the negative comments posted by her TikTok followers.

Shashikala had more than 30,000 followers on TikTok where she shares her views on various topics like home-schooling, sexual harassment and how to maintain luxury handbags.

Her videos were published in English and Tamil language.

I have watched what was said to be Shashikala’s last video she posted on TikTok about home-schooling. I thought she was trying to be helpful when she offered advice on the benefits and advantages of allowing children to learn from home.

Hence, it is difficult to understand why Shashikala was pushed right into a corner of no return when all she really wanted was to be helpful on social media. Along the way, fame is a bonus. If there is an income from her TikTok effort, she thoroughly deserved it.

Over the COVID pandemic of the past two years, we have heard of so many sad and tragic stories. We cried together with the families of those who lost loved ones to suicide because of hunger and poverty.

Single mothers with babies and very young kids were the most vulnerable. I can never forget the day I viewed the video of the young mother who hanged three of her kids at home before taking her own life in the same manner.

We cannot imagine that our neighbours and their children would choose to take their own lives rather than to suffer the pangs of hunger. This is just too tragic.

Shashikala’s death is not due to poverty or that her children are hungry. It is a clear cut case of cyber bullying which was beyond the capacity of the good woman to handle mentally.

Her early demise at the prime of her life was a total waste and should never have happened. It could have been avoided if people were not so full of spite or hate on social media or had there been some kindred souls who would have noticed their fellow TikTokers with suicidal tendencies.

Many are on social media for a variety of reasons – to get noticed, to gain fame, to help others or to sell products and make a living. This is fine.

If you can handle your new found fame after you have thousands of followers all of a sudden, well and good. The main objective, after all, is to gain traction with a large following.

A Malaysiakini reader explained it best when commenting on the Shashikala tragedy: “While I truly empathise with the trauma of a sudden and totally unexpected loss now suffered by her family and friends, I hope others realise that social media which caters to narcissistic impulses and the pathological need for “likes” and social approval is not for those who expect only love and admiration and not hate and vitriol.

“While you cannot force others, especially strangers to like what you say or do, it is entirely in your power to stay away from the glare of publicity and keep your activities to yourself and your family.

“This irrepressible urge to broadcast your activities and innermost thoughts to the rest of the world is actually a 21st century disease enabled and spread by technology.

“As the death of this lady who was not immunised to hate and disapproval shows it can be as deadly as any virus out there.”

I’m not into TikTok and I know it’s a crazy fad now. Neither am I on Instagram or WeChat. I do not tweet as well, although I have been encouraged to do so years ago. I doubt I can handle so many Apps.

I feel so much for the kids Shashikala left behind. The three children were innocent victims of cyber bullying.

The rest of us should take lessons from this tragedy. A person trying to help others, and becomes popular in the social media is bound to attract the good and bad.

It is a pity she fell prey to the negative comments rather than appreciating the many good comments about her aspirations. This is how cyber bullying can turn deadly.

Therein lies the saddest part of this tragedy of tragedies.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

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