Suvi Uski

Social media harassment is common, but often difficult to identify

Elina Andersson-Finne, communications manager

Dissing, bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment, hate speech and targeting. Did you know that more than 40% of adults have experienced harassment on social media? Publicly commenting is just the tip of the iceberg of this widespread phenomenon.

"Harassment has become more common in recent years at an accelerating rate. No one can say anymore they don't know what's going on. However, most of the harassment takes place through private messages and it is therefore difficult to show how common social media harassment really is,” says Suvi Uski, Social Media expert and CEO of SomeBuddy.

SomeBuddy aims to improve the well-being of communities and the sense of security in digital environments and on social media platforms. The app offered by SomeBuddy provides you with legal advice, instructions and psychosocial first aid if you encounter social media harassment in or outside the world of work.

Suvi Uski says that women in particular face hate speech, while sexual harassment, for example, targets both sexes as well as non-binary persons. Social media harassment is experienced by people of all ages, albeit on different social media platforms. In younger age groups, Instagram, SnapChat and TikTok are the most common channels, while older age groups have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Many experience work-related social media harassment

Social media harassment in working life can be directed at either an employee or an organisation.

Suvi Uski says that harassment, especially in connection with work, is often difficult to identify.

"Harassment occurs in a very large number of professional groups. Common examples include police officers, journalists as well as researchers working on controversial topics or publicly reporting the results of their work. Public authorities and public officials with responsibilities and decision-making powers also face harassment."

"In customer service work, for example, the spirit of the game has changed. Restaurant and shop workers are controlled by customers, so to speak, and can face public dissing, insulting and harassment. Employees may be filmed and videos circulated on social media alongside nasty texts,” says Uski.

She points out that people are differently vulnerable today than they were 15 to 20 years ago. With the name alone, anyone can easily find information online. In customer service work, employees often operate under their own names.

Suvi Uski says that harassment also occurs within organisations. Bad things can be dug up about an employee with the aim of silencing him. In this case, the harassment is not related to work, but is about the person.

"Different social media channels and digital platforms are likely to cause conflicts, as interaction is more challenging. Misunderstandings occur more easily when messages are written in a hurry or things are expressed carelessly. Sometimes situations escalate."

Speak out – help is available

According to Suvi Uski, those who face harassment are unfortunately often left alone with their concerns. Situations and being harassed may cause feelings of shame. Matters can be intimate and people are scared and anxious. A person who has been harassed on social media may also not understand that they have been the victim of a crime.

"More than 60% of the cases reported to SomeBuddy meet the hallmarks of a crime."

"Half of these cases are such that the victim themselves has not understood that this is a crime."

People may not dare to tell colleagues or supervisors about work-related harassment because they are afraid of their colleagues' reactions and are ashamed of questioning one's own professionalism and competence. Suvi Uski says that employers rarely understand well enough what it means to protect an individual from social media harassment in practice.

"Workplaces need more knowledge and practical skills to deal with this issue. In very few places, things are at the level they should be. It is often up to individual supervisors to decide whether they can react to situations."

SomeBuddy wants to raise people's awareness of social media harassment and, for example, when the hallmarks of a crime are met. They're urging people to take situations seriously. Suvi Uski says that the transition is already taking place, as the role of social media in harassment is no longer being underestimated in the same way as before. When the role and impacts of social media are better understood, it is possible to take cases more seriously than before.

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