I’ve long been involved in this campaign called Act Like a Human that really just amounts to getting the word out and issuing this endless plea that people learn how to behave on the internet. I often say that the internet is like a peek into the human psyche and once seen it can never be unseen.
We’re an appalling species, especially when we try to bully one another. The internet can be a perfect venue for that because people who may be cowards in real life, can hide behind their keyboards and suddenly be all brave and tough. Keyboard warriors. Trolls, haters, bullies, whatever you call them, they are people who behave poorly, often cloaked in anonymity. I became interested in this issue because kids were being bullied on social media, sometimes right into suicide, and when I went to look into it, I realized who was really teaching them these things, adults.
I’ve been on the internet a long time, sometimes expressing controversial ideas to random strangers, so I have certainly been on the receiving end of retaliation. First there are the usual death threats and wishes that evil befall you and your family and then it progresses to suddenly finding yourself the recipient of half a ton of junk mail, calls from never-ending phone solicitors, and being signed up for every spam list possible. Then we move to doxing, releasing your personal information in bad places, hoping someone will use it for nefarious purposes.
It gets progressively worse from there on out and I don’t wish to share because I don’t wish to give anyone any new and creative ideas about how to harass someone. I have experienced a few of them.
Porn however, is something I do want to talk about, because it is used as a tactic to harass mostly women. It is sexually aggressive and threatening. Someone like me can laugh about it, as if to say, that’s just lovely, now I’m linked to some Russian porn site? Or dang, is that my face photo shopped onto an unattractive body? Wow, rape threats. Must be a Monday!
I am unusual however, I’ve been around, I know the nature of people well, I’ve met teh stoopid. I’m also rather shameless. It doesn’t make these tactics right or okay, they’re pathetic and wrong, but unlikely to send me into a tailspin. For others however they are downright terrifying. Silencing. Really scary. They intimidate and frighten people. You have no idea who is coming after you or how far they will go. Women have been forced into hiding, they have shut down blogs. It is clear intimidation and harassment and it’s not okay.
What is really painful for me is watching some younger girls or those with less internet experience suffer the emotional toll of repeated one line abuse. That’s what it is, sexual, emotional abuse on line. You really need to develop a thick skin, no doubt about that, but that still doesn’t make it okay. I really do stand in solidarity with those who have been bullied on the internet, both men and women, but women do face some rather unique issues, as in the harassment directed towards us is designed to be as emotionally, sexually, and psychologically damaging as possible.
I don’t know how we fix it, but I do know the first step is talking about it and also making sure that people know they are not alone, they are not crazy, nor is it their fault.
And to those who bully, you really don’t know who you are attacking. That big bad Social Justice Warrior you are after could be a 13 year old girl, and you’ve just introduced her to a world of pornography and perversion she never even knew existed. I wish people would think about the potential collateral damage they can create in the world.