People Who Suck: Internet Bullies and Trolls
I don’t normally talk about non-writing things on this blog, mostly because this is my digital equivalent of a notebook, and I like to use it as a place to step away from “real” life for a moment. Plus, there are plenty of sites and blogs out there dedicated to addressing serious issues (climate change, politics, cat memes) that do a much better job of it than I could.
But today warrants a “real” post, because I was perusing Youtube earlier and came across a comment by a user (I know, I know, I shouldn’t read Youtube comments, they’re generally filled with the sort of toxic sludge even Captain Planet would struggle to wade through) which made me really wonder why some people think it’s acceptable to post vitriolic, hateful comments about other people. And I’m talking people they’ve never even met before. Never had a conversation or even shook hands with.
An alternative title to this blog post, therefore, is:
How to not be a horrible human being
I’m not going to point fingers and provide links to the comment/video in question, but I will provide quotes verbatim. So, I was watching a Youtube video featuring a relatively well-known television personality, and the following comment was made about this person’s partner:
I absolutely don’t like his new girlfriend (she seems like a little, factitious slut too me)
I know it’s hard, but try to look beyond the atrocious spelling and grammar and see the comment for what it is. Trolling, pure and simple.
Happily, other Youtubers called out this behaviour, which slightly reaffirms my belief in humanity. So, why even mention this here? It’s because the follow-up comment is a perfect example of how pleasant and decent human beings do not behave when provided with a shield of internet anonymity.
Why don’t I have the right to utter my personal opinion on that??!!
A wise person once said, opinions are like assholes: everybody has one. That doesn’t, however, mean you automatically need to share it. Treat your opinion like you would treat your backside if you were locked up in a prison which didn’t waste money on rope for the soap. Especially on Youtube. Nobody cares much about your opinion, unless you’re somebody who makes money off having an opinion. Some people do well financially from that, but the troll who made this comment does not fall into that category.
After all, this is a free country where everybody possesses the freedom of opinion (no matter if it’s a positive or a negative one)
I’m constantly surprised that some people still believe The Internet is a country. It isn’t. In fact, it’s a community of people made up from pretty much every country. Yes, crimes can be committed on the internet, and in some countries, cyber-bulling and trolling are punishable offenses. Sadly, not in enough of them.
I didn’t intend to be hurtful by saying “little, factitious slut” but that’s just my real and very honest opinion
One of my favourite quotes is: We were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
We were also born with brains, so that we can learn how to apply filters to what we say. Small children don’t know how to filter their comments, which is why they do embarrassing things like loudly proclaim that woman over there has a really big nose, or ask Mr. Jones down the street why he’s going bald on top.
Hurtful intent was quite clearly behind this comment. If in doubt that your comment might cause hurt, ask yourself, “Would I feel hurt by this comment if it was said about me?” Or, if you have particularly thick skin and can shrug things like that off, ask “Can I imagine somebody being hurt if this was said about them?” If the answer was yes, don’t post it.
Of course, it’s not always that easy for everybody to know what is or isn’t offensive. For example, I have a space-cousin who has a rather severe form of Asperger’s. He struggles to relate to people and to empathise with them. He lacks the ability to innately understand when something he’s said has offended somebody, but he is very capable of learning and identifying visual clues. He can’t feel when he’s upset somebody, but he can observe it and avoid it in the future.
Not that he would ever label a woman he’d never even met with one of the most offensive slurs available. And it’s most definitely not okay that it’s a “real” and “honest” opinion. As opposed to what, everything else that wasn’t real and honest? Again, just because it’s a “real” and “honest” opinion does not mean you need to put it out there. Especially when it’s so offensive.
And finally, my favourite part of the come-back…
(besides, I know a number of people who say the same about her)
“Other people say it, so it’s okay if I do.”
And what’s worse is that this “number of people” have also never met the victim in question. I imagine they just got together, decided that their victim was pretty and dressed in a way they didn’t like, and decided she’s comparable to a prostitute because of it. That’s if these “people” even exist. They could just be a figment of the comment-poster’s imagination. A self-created cheer leading squad.
To summarise, here are my top tips for becoming an excellent human being (if you aren’t already an excellent human being, of course. I know that most of my commenters/readers are exactly that):
- Recognise that just because you are entitled to have an opinion, does not mean that you should automatically share that opinion.
- Pick your soapbox/platform. Youtube is not an appropriate place to call somebody you have never met a slut. Nowhere is an appropriate place to do that. But if you absolutely must, then please be considerate of others by getting together with your (potentially imaginary) friends and doing it in private, where Joe Public will not have to experience your vitriol.
- Engage your brain-filter. Ask yourself how you would feel if you came across somebody calling you names. If your [insert parental figure here] never gave you the advice, “If you don’t have something nice or useful to say, don’t say anything at all” well, consider it now given.
- Remember that if you’re insulting somebody, be it on the internet or in “real life”, your words say absolutely nothing about your victim, but they do say a lot about you. And it’s especially bad when you’re launching an unprovoked and unwarranted attack on a stranger. This makes you an unpleasant human being.
- Remember how beauty is only skin deep? Anger, hatred and callousness of this sort are extremely negative. Imagine them as a sort of thick, black, toxic, tar. They’re inside your heart and your mind. Now, imagine what they’re doing to you on the inside; how ugly they are making you. Do you really want to live like that? Wouldn’t you rather let go of that negativity and hostility towards a stranger, and simply get on with enjoying life?
This has been an Urban Spaceman rant. Thanks for tuning in!