Online Harassment; why it happens and what you should do

In case you haven’t noticed, dating apps and sites are on the rise. Unfortunately, so is the harassment that comes with them. A recent study carried out by Consumer’s Research in the US revealed that more than ⅓ of dating app and site users have experienced some form of online harassment (the majority of them being women). This harassment falls on a spectrum; starting from negging and pestering, all the way to threats and of course, unsolicited dick pics. Although harassment is taken very seriously in the real world (i.e. a street flasher would most likely see jail time or a hefty fine), that doesn’t seem to translate into the online space. And while I know that it’ll take a lot more than 600 words to fully understand and unpack this loaded topic, I will try to list some of the psychology behind this horrible behaviour and what you can do if you’re ever faced with it.


Why it happens



The main reason otherwise normal people would participate in this kind of behaviour is because there are no perceived consequences for their actions. To them, as long as they don’t reveal their faces, their real names or anything identifying, they can commit these crimes (yes, I am labelling them crimes because that’s what they are) and get away with it. By harassing people they don’t know, they feel like there’s no way it will ever coming back to haunt them (*cough* karma *cough).



Let’s face it, we live in a world where men are seen as the “leaders” of any sexual relationships and women are commonly viewed as the passive receiver to these advances (yes, I know, even as I typed that I shuddered). It is because of this mentality that some men (not all men) feel entitled to receive attention from women. It is when they don’t receive what they feel entitled to that they start to throw tantrums. And while some of their tantrums are just harmless annoyances, a lot of them can be downright scary.



Believe it or not, some people get off on getting a rise out of other people; that’s why internet trolling is such a big thing now. Unfortunately, when people like this make themselves profiles on dating apps and sites, everyone is fair game to them. Spotting these trolls is quite easy, if someone starts a conversation by insulting you or negging, they’re most likely just a troll.


What you should do


Report them

If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, regardless of whether it’s online or off, you should tell someone. If you’re being harassed on any dating site, report it! It’s their duty as the providers of the platform to look out for their users. Also make sure to block your harasser and do all you can to protect your privacy online. If that doesn’t work, try these creative tactics.


Know your rights

Don’t let the helplessness that comes with being harassed online stop you from researching and exercising your rights. If you’ve reported the harassment to the relevant parties and they haven’t done much, make sure to visit SmartSafe for legal guides, case studies, how-to videos and more information on technology-facilitated abuse and how to deal with it in Australia.


So there you go everyone, now you know (a little bit) about the psychology behind online dating harassment and what you should do if it happens to you, hopefully you’re online dating experience becomes a lot less cringey and a lot more rewarding.


**Just a side note to those of you who have or are actively harassing people online, please do some introspection and figure out why it is you’re doing what you do. Stop contributing to the problem. Please.