"Sometimes, I don't know when there's a new 'me' out there; people just tell me about it," says sportscaster and TV host Lia Cruz. She first found out when pals added her fake Friendster accounts and wrote testimonials. "When my friends mentioned it to me, I was flabbergasted that these accounts actually existed."
Lia's fake accounts can be found in blogs, e-mail addresses, and instant messengers. "At first, I was annoyed-and I still get annoyed from time to time-but I've learned to brush it off more easily now." Although Lia's impersonators have never been caught, she's guessing that they're "all female and below the age of 20," the typical fan age group of popular rock band Sponge Cola, whose vocalist, Yael Yuzon, is her boyfriend. "I think the only reason the accounts were created was that these young girls pine for Yael," Lia imparts lightheartedly. "So at one point, I really felt that the interest was undue and invasive."
Lia avoids checking these accounts, because she has always felt a bit insulted by them. "Most of the content have something to do with Yael, so I can't help but wonder if that's the only interesting thing about me. Also, I made the mistake of checking out the pictures they posted and some of the comments are pretty nasty. I'm quite sensitive, even though you'll never guess that upon meeting me. The people close to me know these things bother me."
Rep at Stake
Then-nineteen-year-old student, model, and Candy cover girl Ellen Adarna was devastated when she found edited nude pictures of herself in fake accounts. "At first, I was really annoyed, angry, and hurt. But after some time I got used to it, so I'm fine now. I might as well just laugh, rather than make a big deal out of it."
Part of Ellen's reputation sabotage includes fakers asking for money or cell phone load from unassuming victims who think that it really is her. Things got so crazy that even Ellen's own account was suspended because impostors reported that it was fake!
"I was hurt because it came to the point of destroying me—until now, some haters are still enjoying that. But I don't hear bad things from people close to me. I only get hate mail from people I don't know and I don't finish reading them."
A scary experience was when she received five packages from people she didn't know. "They knew where I lived, and that was freaky."
"I've come across several blogs that have been dedicated to bashing me," says Lia. "It's usually the same thing. They write about how ugly I am, how I don't deserve Yael, and how he shouldn't be wasting his time with me.
"It's not fun to be dissed online at all, no matter who you are. My emotions have ranged from exasperation to amusement to real hurt to not caring. What sucks the most is that all this bashing is concentrated towards a relationship that, in truth, makes me so happy."
For Ellen, bullying took on another form when she refused to add accounts of people she didn't know personally. "Someone sent a message that if I didn't add her, she would ruin my life and that I'd regret it. Another claimed she would post edited pictures online if I didn't add her."
Jane*, 18, likes to keep her travel photos accessible, so she makes them available to everyone on Multiply. As a result, she gets comments like "Wow, ang sexy! Tan na tan!" for her photographs at the beach. "When I checked my albums, those that were viewed most were albums showing my barkada in bikinis," she shares.
If Jane isn't careful, her situation might become as drastic as Ellen's, who has been verbally harassed online. "I have received a lot of pambabastos. I cannot remember the exact words, but they were something like, ‘I want to f*** you!'"
When comments like these are thrown her way, Ellen chooses to ignore them-a good reaction, according to Andrew*, 22, who has friends who engage in c-sex (cyber-sex). "As a guy, the best advice I can give girls is to ignore sexual advances. That's always the best option. There will always be people like that and it's best not to let them get to you. They'll go away if they get tired."
Andrew spills that sometimes, chatting begins with an innocent "Hi. Ctc (care to chat)?" This eventually leads to something as dirty and blunt as, "Gusto mong makipag-sex?"
"If the girl doesn't answer or reacts violently, mas hina-harass nila, like they'd ask, 'Magkano ka ba?'" But Andrew says that there really are girls who engage in c-sex, SOT (sex on text), SOP (sex on the phone), or SEB (sex eyeball)—in exchange for cell phone load.
What They Think
Lia thinks that online harassment is a result of boredom or an intent to destroy someone's reputation. "In some cases, they do it because they have some perverted fantasy of taking over that person's identity."
"It might be jealousy—because why would they hate me when they don't even know me personally? Or maybe they're unhappy," adds Ellen.
Jane says people tend to lose their inhibitions online because they don't get judged by how they look. "I find that people are more open to discussing things that way."
Limit Your Contacts
"To an extent, it's also my fault. I made my photos available for everyone to see. You should know the possible consequences when you post your stuff online. Be responsible for what you post. You can't always blame the viewers because you yourself made the photos available."
Jane's point is a lesson that Ellen learned the hard way. Her personal accounts are now limited to friends. "I wish I did something before. But I didn't see it coming," says Ellen.
The only way to prevent things from getting out of hand is to start with the user. As Lia emphasizes, "Don't think that whatever you write or post is not accessible to the rest of the world."
When things get uncontrollable, remember that you should seek professional help. The e-commerce act, or Republic Act No. 8792, recognizes the legality of electronic documents as evidence to allege a crime.
Ellen sums up what an online victim might want to say to her offenders: "Maybe you're happy now, but I'm happier than you. Because I have something you don't—I have a life."
*Names have been changed.