So lately, I’ve been mesmerized by how uncivil people have become online. I don’t have a personal story of woe to share, but there have been events involving people I know personally or know simply online, which made me think about the behaviors I’ve witnessed more deeply.
We have known for some time now people become cruel, using their online personas to lash their vindictive tongues against others when people are most vulnerable. I find interesting that as a culture we seem to have generally accepted this. “Oh, that person wishing for so and so to do some obscene sexual position for supporting this politician, that’s typical.” Have you ever read a twitter war where one person tweets something regrettable causing a whole community to lash out at the individual in the most vile of ways, sometimes even topping the vileness of the original offensive tweet?
It simply doesn’t make sense to me.
No community is immune, even groups on Facebook, whose sole purpose is to discuss COLORING have been infiltrated by negative personalities. Yes, coloring, has become sidetracked by this nonsense.
So tell me a little bit more about the victims.
What I’ve found is that the victims of these online attacks tend to fall into one of four categories.
- Negative personalities and behaviors, who behave in such a fashion on a consistent basis, which have riled the public to lash out at them. While the anger may be justified, the responses are not. A quick example would be someone criticizing Niki Minaj’s hypersexual persona, which she uses to sell her music. The critic instead of discussing how she devalues herself as a woman and a musician will write something along the lines of, “I hate that fu—– no talent sl–.”
- A person making an egregious comment or partaking in a negative action, which is deemed offensive by the public at large. An example of this would be the Twitter user who makes a sexist comment. As punishment the Twitter community descends on this person and continues to harass that person with vile threats and comments.
- A person who shares mistakes or sins they have made in the past and wishes to either grow or is sharing such private details, so that others may learn from their mistake. As a result some online users seem to think this is permission for taunting the individual for their past mistakes. A user in a Facebook group I belong too, shared a distressing story about how individuals from another religious based group criticized the victim for their past sexual conduct. I believe the individual was called a, “slut.” That my friend is not Christian charity or reprimand, but that is a topic for another day.
- An individual who is attacked for their body or appearance. An astonishing example is what happened to Kelly at Fitness Blender. She has a beautiful body and her YouTube channel has helped so many people, but people still had the gall to say ugly things to her. You can read more about her experience in her blog, “Keeping Body Talk About Self and Others Positive – A Quick Note.” If you want to know how she obtained the body she has, simply visit Fitness Blender.
I get it. People are cruel. But don’t some of those people deserve it?
Do we as a society need to call out certain Hollywood celebrities for their narcissism and promotion of sex and vice? Yes, of course! If someone says a racist rant, should they be called out on their language? Yes, why wouldn’t you?
However, I believe when you go as far as to release the address of a person who commits a terrible act (or in some cases a mistake), you are essentially no better than Isis. What you are saying with that behavior is, “I want some type of physical harm to come their way. ”
What’s worse is you’re not allowing that person to grow as an individual. The court of public opinion as of late has not only come to judgments quickly, but sometimes without knowing the full facts. Others may argue guilty individuals involved in such scandals will never learn, but someone else who believes and thinks the same way is watching. Someone that could possibly change, and if we lower ourselves to act like vigilantes and monsters, rather than thoughtful citizens we lose opportunities to reach out to people to change their minds and hearts.
The truth is we’ll never really know who is capable of changing, so we have to treat everyone as they have the potential to change and learn from their past sins.
I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m simply being attacked!
If you’re a Kelly from Fitness Blender or a high school student being bullied your options are varied and different. The best thing for minors to do is to report those harassing you online. It can be done discreetly, anonymously, and it will be the first step towards turning off attacks directed at you.
Sometimes, you may have to ignore these critics. That isn’t always easy or maybe not an option if you’re 16, but what you shouldn’t do is give them fodder. When you reveal sensitive information online, you should always ask yourself, “Is it for the greater good?” and then think, “If people used this information against me, would I be okay with the attacks?” (It’s the same reason why people don’t post their addresses online. I may be fine having someone question my decision to be Catholic, but not having that same critic show up at my door to have the conversation with me.)
When Kelly decided to reveal sensitive information about her weight and body image she did so, because her mission is to help others love their appearance and become healthier. She used the negative attacks as a stepping stone and to reach out to her community.
Kelly handled the attacks perfectly. She did not resort to vulgar language or show her frustration and anger in such a way, which would give her critics more fuel to use against her. It’s imperative to be our best selves online, rather than lowering ourselves simply because others partake in that same behavior.
Mostly, I hope before you rush out to tell someone off for their egregious behavior or comments you step back to think what your words will do. Will they continue to cut and divide the community you are in or will they heal and inspire others to become their better selves? We both know you are better than that and are born to inspire others, not destroy the lives around you.