I’ve read a few blogs recently plus quite a few threads and posts around the place. A local police unit decided to post a video on Facebook, of a group of criminals breaking into a store and stealing to order. It was a clever use of social media and netted their little group of ‘wanted’ within less than 24 hours. I watched the video, didn’t know the offenders but then turned to the comments below. It began ok, the usual helpful suggestions and mooted names that the cops might want to check out. And then the real stuff began. I’m not sure what it is, but someone always gets personal. A comment was made about the assumption that the offenders were of ethnic minority and off they all went on that one. Another sensible contributor pointed out the certainty of the fact, being as one of them was very definitely brown. Therefore, not an assumption, but a conclusion. On it raged, the smart comments, the character assassinations and then, the odd incredibly intelligent and marginally hilarious post that left me giggling and wanting to show everyone else in the house.
Later on I enjoyed a blog that talked about a popular US reality show and the blogger’s feelings about the main protagonist. Initially there were congratulatory comments as some readers agreed but then came the criticism, the personal attacks, even to the point where someone made fun of her name and another called her ‘ugly’. I stopped reading after that. Me disconnecting beats no disapproving drum or registers any kind of vote anywhere but at least my conscience is clear. What bothers me is my own reluctance to comment, to contribute to a forum, a blog, a thread or a post. There have been many occasions when I have typed something only to delete it in case of repercussions, real or imagined.
Today I clicked on a link from a reputable site in order to read the lovely thing they were sharing about parenting. My super-duper-installed-by-techie-husband-virus-protection messaged me straight away on screen, informing me that the article contained a known virus threat and urging me to close it immediately. I did exactly that. I left a comment on the thread, just repeating what the message had warned. Initially it was ignored and then came the inevitable, ‘but...it’s this person’s special site, that can’t be right blah blah blah...’ Feeling like a moron and not wanting to get into it, I deleted my comment. So now, there are people all over the internet getting bugs from something which is probably awesome and valid, but perhaps unintentionally contains a little piece of code, programmed to cause misery for someone.
It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, everyone has an opinion on it. We can sit behind our keyboards, phones, iPads and other random devices and vent and accuse and complain, apparently without boundaries. We can say whatever we like, because the mileage between most of us makes it unlikely that we will ever be face to face with one another. If I don’t like what you say, I can block you, unfriend you or delete you, but unfortunately not until after I’ve seen what you’ve written, taken it inside my soul and allowed its rottenness to begin the damage.
Writers, reviewers, actors, sports personalities and singers are all easy prey. Vulnerable young teens, children, adults, journalists and even princes, have become subject to the uber valid slating of the general populace who sincerely believe that they have a ‘right’ to do so. Anyone whose head inadvertently ends up showing over the parapet is perceived as fair game, whether they intended to be there on show or not. I have seen families in the news hit by some unforeseen disaster, devastated and dishevelled behind the glare of the camera, knowing that tomorrow they will be criticised for some imagined slight. Their house burned down because they were irresponsible smokers, drug addicts, gamblers, alcoholics. Some anonymous person somewhere will have seen ‘something’ suspicious which has no foundation in fact, but the family will be vilified anyway, belittled and humiliated by a public which just can.
If we did a show of hands across the continents of those who had been bullied, insulted or directly attacked online, I think we would be astounded. Right now in this very second, there must be any amount of dejected hearts reeling from such a slight. They are hidden in bedrooms, bathrooms, offices, vehicles and lounges all over the world, feeling the knife wound of someone’s exceptionally sharp tongue, compounded by the metal thrust of the keyboard.
The bible, that old fashioned, nowadays little regarded book, talks about the bridling of the tongue being one of man’s most impossible tasks. Psalms 52:2 - Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. I remember as a teenager, an advert in the UK for Yellow Pages. The slogan was, ‘let your fingers do the talking.’ It was referring to the fingers moving across the pages of the tome to find the relevant business. Yet now it would aptly refer to the fingers literally spewing out the vile stuff that the tongue wouldn’t dare deliver in person. Perhaps it was prophecy.
It truly needs to stop, but how? Posting anything has become a risky business. What happened to the printed word being considered under generous legal constraints? Synonyms of the word ‘Libellous’ include; defamatory, denigratory, vilifying, disparaging, derogatory, aspersive, calumnious, calumniatory, slanderous, false, untrue, misrepresentative, traducing, maligning, insulting, scurrilous, slurring, smearing. We see such things all the time online but they have strayed into the realms of acceptable, entertaining and funny. We are silent bystanders in injustice more times a day than we perhaps realise. Death threats used to be given over something intensely serious didn’t they? Or have I got that wrong? Someone is bound to comment and let me know. A person would have to sit with a pair of scissors and a glue stick, cutting letters out of the newspaper in order to send a poisoned pen letter or an anonymous defamatory comment. Not so now. An online name, a hidden email account and you can send as many as you like, regardless of who you hurt. We call it progress apparently.
The essential questions are probably;
1. When did sharing our opinions become an excuse for overt rudeness without personal and immediate consequences?
2. When did good people begin shrugging it off as acceptable?
#cyberbullying #amwriting #indie #author #opinions
#cyberbullying #amwriting #indie #author #opinions