My playground too…
I have long been a fan of the internet. You probably know this about me.
I have met some incredible people online – people I am proud to call friends in the real world.
The internet allows you to seek out the best, most inspiring, sweetest, funniest facets of human nature. Most of the time.
And then sometimes, a foul few ruin it for everyone.
Most of you already know the awful story of how anonymous ‘trolls’ (people who allow filth and ugliness to pour from minds through their keyboards) ganged up on an Australian TV presenter who dared to ‘out’ one of their kind publicly. I refuse to republish their vitriol here, but suffice it to say that they relentlessly called on her to take her own life. Seriously. She is in hospital as we speak. (If you want to know more background, the news story is here).
Incredibly, I have remained relatively free of this kind of attack during my years online. This is in spite of having a silly, could-be-rude blog name (which has afforded me a degree of anonymity that helps those close to me feel comfortable). In spite of working in an industry that has seen others become the victims of some extreme activists’ ‘virtual attacks’. For some reason (and I cannot believe it is simply my empty threat to use a whip) everyone has played beautifully in my corner of the internet. And I cannot tell you how surprised and delighted I am that this has been so.
I adore all my visitors – who arrive here from a spectrum of countries, backgrounds, beliefs, genders and sexual persuasions. Despite many of you living very different lives, you appreciate mine. And this is how it SHOULD be. This is the internet at it’s best.
I have a great friend who works in a hospital, and sees the result of cyber bullying at one of our local towns. She sees schoolkids on the verge of suicide and it (quite naturally) disturbs her deeply. She is strong in her belief that facebook is evil. I see her point, but also know how wonderful a tool it can be. I use facebook to share photos and stories and funny snippets from elsewhere with friends and family. I use it for business, for organising events, for letting my internets buds know about new posts on this blog. I chat with some of you there, and I love that it’s a two-way forum.
I try to adhere to the same rules I do in real life. If you cannot say something nice, try VERY hard not to say anything at all. I’m not perfect. I have regretted things I have said. But I have certainly NEVER wished anyone harm. Yet I wonder if everyone actually understands the responsibilities they have every time they push that ‘enter’ key?
I have long believed that kids should be taught at school what is means to ‘publish’ something. That once published, your words or images will remain FOREVER. To help or hurt you and others LONG into the future. That just because you delete something from your twitter or facebook stream, it is never actually removed indelibly. Anyone can take a screenshot and save it.
Kids need to know that it is okay to be different, to have opposing points of view to others, to debate a topic without allowing your language to degenerate into personal attacks. I sometimes wonder if ADULTS know where that line is anymore?
Certainly if one of us is feeling vulnerable and in need of support, we should all be there to do just that. Or at the very least, SHUT UP with the negative.
Because it’s not facebook that is evil, or Twitter. Or even social media in general. The evil lives in the minds that hide behind the safety of anonymity or distance these tools provide. It finds safety here, and it can fester, encouraged by the evidence of others successfully venting their putrid thoughts in the open.
And basically, to me, this is the cause and the answer rolled into one. There MUST be a consequence for vile behaviour (as there is In Real Life).
I know you cannot track these trolls down easily in person – they are cowardly and hide behind fake IDs and generic email accounts specifically set up for their bullying activities. But SURELY you can shut down their line to the world: their internet access? I wonder (in all my technical ignorance) can authorities not take away a troll’s individual voice? Identify and shut down their IP address? I am no expert but surely this is possible?
Because the internet is my playground, and your playground, and will be our children’s playground too. Let’s find a way keep it safe and clean and wonderful.
What are your thoughts on social media in general?
And what would you see done to bring justice to trolls like those who attacked Charlotte Dawson?
PS Images inserted to lighten the unusual weight of this post, and to encourage me to remember how great and inspiring and sweet my virtual playground usually is!
PPS If you want to read comment that doesn’t pull punches on this topic, read Jen’s rant here.