Recently, I tried to get in touch with a person (Ms X) I had interacted with briefly during my college days. I was told by a mutual friend that she had moved out of the country, quite abruptly, in the middle of pursuing her degree.
Baffled, I couldn’t help but wonder why. The answer shocked, angered and saddened me at the same time. It continues to even today, every time I think about it.
Ms X was the epitome of a good girl. She got good grades, dressed modestly, was very polite and friendly and had a good relationship with her family, friends and acquaintances. One had heard of a person that Ms X referred to as her long-time boyfriend, someone she had full intentions of getting married to once she was through with college. As it turned out, for whatever reason, she decided to end her relationship with the said boyfriend. He apparently didn’t take it well and set out to destroy her in a manner that (despite it sounding a little dramatic) I can only assume is unforgivable. He posted some intimate, somewhat explicit photographs of her online that he had taken from his cell phone. Knowing how the internet works, they were copied and hosted almost immediately on almost all of the popular servers.
Everyone saw them. In reaction, the students at the university stopped talking to her and ostracised her. People working in the professional field where her classmates were interning saw the pictures, and pretty soon, she developed a ‘reputation’ in those circles as well. Her neighbours saw them and began to talk, sometimes giving outright hostile looks to her family whenever they would pass by. She changed her cell phone number and her mother screened her calls at home. Eventually she stopped attending college, took her semester exams separately and she, along with her entire family moved abroad. I don’t know what happened to the perpetrator, I don’t even know who he was: in the media posted online, his face is (conveniently) hidden.
At a themed get-together, in my attempt to find the restroom, I came across a room in which an acquaintance had ‘passed out’ on the bed and another individual (who, it turns out was simply posing, otherwise he had no business being parked where he was) lying beside her. What disturbed me was that there was a whole group of guests standing over them, all of them taking photos of the two from their cell phone cameras. The girl would find it hard to escape her ‘embarrassing moment’ as it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the photos would be shared from friend to acquaintance, making fun of the girl and what not.
Incidents in which cell phone cameras are being used to take intimate photos which are then shared by the photographer first between friends and acquaintances and then (perhaps, out of malice) online are becoming worryingly common. They are also used as means through which the photographers blackmail their subjects. Teenage boys have been known to scare their girlfriends (stupid enough to get trapped in such a situation) in the same manner, often to scare the girls from ‘dumping’ them.
Where one feels that in part, such incidents are just as much of a fault of the victim since they willingly (and stupidly) allow themselves to be recorded in such a manner, one also feels that the person recording the media needs to behave in a mature, responsible manner and give due thought to the (sometimes irreparable) damage he/she would inflict on not only the victim, but also on the victim’s family and friends. In this age of instantly recordable and transportable media, both need to consider the consequences of the media they are using, for what purpose and how it can be exploited.