Monday, February 17, 2014

Online abuse and bullying

I must say, I'm getting rather concerned about the whole issue of online abuse and bullying. It's come to the fore once again as yet another sports person closes their Twitter account because of threats received via that particular medium. Something surely needs to be done. But what?

Not being an internet savvy kind of person, at least not in the tracing ISP's or DNS locations, I have no idea how easy it would be to block a particular location regularly used by an abuser. Obviously companies could close accounts and block usernames, but choosing a new username and setting up a new account is the obvious get around for such action.

I guess this kind of behaviour is almost a natural extension of the couch bound sports watcher who shouts abuse at the TV from the comfort of their armchair or even from the terraces when they can muster the energy to drag themselves to the stadium. Perhaps you have to play or have played sport to understand just a little of what it means to compete and how small errors of judgement in the moment can lead to failing to achieve the goals you've set for yourself.

Perhaps online abuse is just a symptom of a wider malaise that infects our society and undermines our communities. How different might it be if we sought to be encouragers rather than critics.

In the end the only thing that is likely to have an impact on social media giants is loss of revenue. That would require a large scale rejection of the service, thousands of people closing their Twitter or Facebook accounts, or maybe a strike on updates and comments. Perhaps a day of action when everyone posts a "This must stop" message, a sort of internet version of the famous scene from Network, when Peter Finch's character, Howard Beale, calls on his audience to open their windows and shout: "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore."

On the other hand, a quieter revolution, one where we we teach ourselves and others that there is a better way,  one where we take responsibility for ourselves and own our comments. One where we remember that abuse hurts whatever form it takes and most people are actually more fragile than we think.

If you have a minute, read the Wikipedia entry on "Sticks and stones", the old adage that suggests that abuse, in the form of name calling, doesn't hurt. And then ask yourself if it's true.

No comments: