In recent times, the surge in online behavior across the globe has led to social media corporations taking up increased responsibility for what goes up on the internet and what is removed. Community-based guidelines get revised regularly and the content moderation teams, primarily located in South East Asian countries work round the clock to keep up with the changing trends. While their work is an important task and allows the rest of the world to joyfully scroll through a clean feed every day, it puts the cyber-guards under tremendous work-related stress. The kind of posts that they have to go through on a daily basis involve graphic content on homicide, physical and sexual abuse, torture, etc.
Several news reports, studies, and documentaries have tapped into a regular workday of content moderators and have reported symptoms of secondary PTSD in most of the employees. This along with the dire working conditions of the moderators leads to psychological issues since they continue to see disturbing content for long periods at a stretch. To cope with the ongoing distress, they often engage in maladaptive behavior such as using drugs and relying on excessive sex in a maladaptive attempt to regulate their emotions. And when they’re earning as low as Rs 8,700 despite holding an engineering degree, one can easily imagine their helplessness, desperation, and frustration. This indicates a spill-over effect of their work-related issues in their personal, social life which takes a big toll on their daily functioning.
To cater to these industry-specific problems, corporations collaborate with Corporate Wellness Providers and ensure that their employees have access to the help they require. Antarmanh’s industry-specific team has provided counseling services to thousands of moderators since its inception and these numbers have increased manifold during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that further exacerbated their despair.
While most cyber-guards are bound by stringent NDA norms and refrain from talking too much about their work, which adds a subsequent layer to their isolation, a few share their experiences,
“I don’t feel like eating. I see blood and gore and all of that comes to my mind when I sit to eat. Then, I cannot eat. I met a general physician who says this is due to stress, but how do I tell them that stress is a part of my job? That is not the main concern, all I want is to learn how to deal with it” says X, an employee at an MNC.
“Yes, of course the work is a little disturbing, but it has added to my maturity. I now see things from a wider perspective now and very few things surprise me. So, I don’t get angry often because there are worse things happening around the world. However, I did have to see a therapist to be able to make sense of what was happening in my head. It helped immensely.” says Y, an employee at an MNC.
No one denies how important the cleaning up of the internet is. When our kids have unlimited access to it, we must ensure it’s a safe place. And it also saves us the traumatic experiences of unexpectedly being exposed to disturbing content in the middle of a workday. However, simultaneously casting an eye on the individual behind the screen who is doing the dirty work for us would do all of us great good.
Even if a sect of the cyber-guards do not get symptoms of mental illness, they are certain to undergo a shift in their worldview. This can be tricky to handle since all that they can turn to is their colleagues working on the same floor. Making split-second decisions while conforming to guidelines that change nearly on a daily basis puts a mighty strain on their cognitive resources. In addition is the emotional turmoil that they’re expected to cater to, all on their own.
In recent years, when such third party companies joined hands with mental health professionals to ensure the well-being of their workforce, it did depict an overall improvement in the industry. Before the demands of the job paves the way for substance abuse and burnout, adequate preventive measures ensure reduction in workplace related distress and enhances their job satisfaction. It safeguards the moderators who are already persistently exposed to the content by enhancing their resilience and teaching stress management skills.
The content moderation solutions market has been exponentially increasing since the early 21st century. With the emergence of 5G, driverless cars and space tourism, the market will only get bigger and wider. Hence, providing a safe environment to moderators is extremely important and would not only enhance their work experience but would also provide us with a better internet experience!