So on the Internet are we all one big happy family?
Anyone who is on Facebook, Twitter, Websites, has a blog has at one time or another encountered a “Troll” or worse a cyber-bully. These are the people who sit behind the safety of a computer screen and generally start with argumentative comments designed to provoke or cause hurt, to the persistent cyber-bully who posts personal and prolonged attacks on you.
Trolls have an air of superiority about them, believe that they are in the right and argue their point of view ad nauseam sometime to the detriment of their own logic. There is even a term called ‘Trolling’.
Trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms are bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Supporters argue it’s about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech. (Taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14898564 )
It’s easy to become a troll. Just post a comment on someone’s comment or page or blog often without thinking about the consequences and from there the whole thing spirals out of control. One person’s comment can lead to a whole host of negative comments in response. And yes, it can lead to all out Hate speech. Most people hide behind freedom laws, in America they will quote ‘First Amendment Rights’ and ‘Freedom of Speech’ and here in the UK , we incorporated the ‘Human Rights Act’, whereby Article 10 permits the Freedom of Expression, however there are heavy caveats to cover most things up to and including Incitement to Racial Hatred and also Terrorism associated with Article Ten. Why then are there not more controls and cases against Trolls and Cyber Bullying than are reported on in the media?
In America media reports have documented the rise of suicides amongst victims of cyber bullying with a correlation of a growing trend of suicides here in the UK on account of harassment over social network sites. With the last reported suicide over cyber bullying reported in April this year. The average age of victims is generally between 12 and 14 and can affect boys as well as girls. The harassment, bullying and victimisation can be about clothes, hairstyle, from appearance to sexuality and even what friends you have to what band or pop star you like. Anybody who has ventured into Twitter will be familiar with people who call themselves ‘Belibers’ , ‘Swifties’ or ‘Little Monsters’ and are in some cases radical fans of their chosen Idols. Twitter users will also note that on many occasions their goals are to obtain the ‘trending’ articles and prove their Idol is more popular than other people’s.
Twitter has no limits. Whilst the sign up age is 18 there are many on there who are as young as 10 years old and are subjected to the cyber bullying that is so prevalent on that particular site. Fans will send death threats to other fans and also to celebrities. Fans will send ‘hate’ and if one account is blocked or deleted they will just create another and although there is a reporting mechanism for Twitter, often the offensive tweet is deemed to be not offensive enough for Twitter’s standards. This is why you will see swearing, sexualized content, offensive or abusive material of a racist or homophobic nature posted, retweeted throughout twitter. The limits we impose on ourselves is sacrificed when we are behind the comfort of a computer screen. Most posters also seem to sacrifice morals and self control, such as one group of fans wishing that another group of fans contract cancer.
So where are the lines drawn in Internet terms? We’ve probably all seen a ‘Meme’, whereby a picture is assigned an amusing caption. Odds are we’ve posted some ourselves, but have we really looked at what we are posting or reblogging? Do we care or are we jumping on the bandwagon and just sharing things to try and improve our popularity? Are the number of online friends we have that important, or how many people follow us? Why? Are we really that desperate to be popular? And do we check the content of those memes or posts we are so eager to share? Do we notice if they are demeaning in some way or if they bully someone? How do we know that the picture has been used with permission?
On top of that is the rise in popularity of videos. Now that everyone has access for recording videos on their phones and the ability to upload them there are a number of ones going around the internet that bully, demean and force victims to feel shame. This technology is being used as another weapon rather than something ‘incredible’. Often the offending video clip becomes viral and more and more people see it and ridicule it. Imagine if you were the one in the video, supposing you had a wardrobe miss-function or you’d fallen and hurt yourself and now, instead of just you knowing about it there are people out there who you don’t even know laughing and sharing the video and you have no control over it.
Bulling is defined as persistent unwelcome behaviour, using criticism, exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently resulting in feelings of humiliation and seclusion causing hurt and anguish and often leads to feelings of depression and social isolation. The victim’s sense of self worth is lessoned leading to impact in other areas of their lives and could ultimately lead to actual suicide attempts and in some cases, people succeed in taking their own lives. The impact of bullying remains ongoing throughout the victim’s lives even if the actual bullying has ceased.
People bully for a variety of reasons, to be popular, because they are jealous, because they are the targets of bully’s themselves, because they have no friends. They feel that because they can make someone feel worse than them it somehow makes them better in some way. Now with the advent of the internet and the ease at which you can delve into someone’s life, and do so anonymously we need to self police ourselves, and in the case of parents, check what our kids are doing, seeing and also going through.
If you suspect that someone you know is being bullied you can get them help. There are several places to look for more information. The important thing is to let them know that they aren’t alone.