Friday, March 1, 2013

Musings | The Sickness That Is Trolling: How Jabs To One Are Slaps To Others

I'll just go ahead and say it: I was bullied a few times when I was younger.

I was poked at for my scrawny size, my inferiority complex, and worst of all, for my religion. Growing up in a mostly-white suburb, there was one day when our world history classes taught us about it (Jainism) and my fellow classmates subsequently learned that I was Jain. While I was proud that they were learning about the history of Jainism, many of the guys instead thought it would be funny to call me "Diaper Boy" as their way of understanding some of the tenets of the Jainism. With sentences like "So what, you don't kick rocks?" and "Why aren't you wearing your diaper today?" coming up, it hurt. Hard. I somehow was able to laugh it off then, but it still scars me to this day of the ignorance of those guys.

In this day in age, the worst kind of bullying is coming up on social media. I've been going through this Atlantic piece about the modern ways we are tackling cyber bullying, and what scares me the most is that even as people I know get older, their ignorance and sense of self-ethics never changes.

"Trolling," a quasi-bullying tactic I have been seeing way too often on Twitter, is getting a bit out of hand these days. From "subtweets" (tweets specifically referring to someone or a set of people without directly mentioning them) to direct attacks, I see so many snarky comments and jabs that while the jabber may think is funny and lighthearted, the jabbed may take it more as a heavy backhanded slap. It's not right and it makes that person look more of a fool than he or she already is.

What is even scarier to me is that some of these jabbers are well-respected people within their fields of work. I have seen journalists unfairly blow up on others (including myself). I have seen social media strategists/editors/directors/etc use some pointed language to take down the viewpoints of people, even if they are just expressing their opinions. I've even seen publications retweet tweets of others because they did a simple search on Twitter in order to publicly shame them. Really? Are we adults or are we still children?

I know it is unfair to point fingers like I am above, but what is scarier to me is who is to blame: all of us. Let's face it, we all have laughed at one of these actions. We all have seen them happen. But we don't ever do enough to stop it or even police it. I am at fault, and so are many of us.

The song from Avenue Q is sadly correct: Everyone's a little bit racist. But as grown adults, we have the ability to both stop ourselves from causing these disturbing jabs and to put a stop to others doing it by calling them out. The Atlantic's piece points on how the idea of a "self-reflection" box could come up before one posts anything due to algorithms, and that's a great and hopeful step. But if we cannot control ourselves from doling out these backhanded insults, then we all need a lesson in maturity.
We have seen individuals take action themselves. John Herrman took down ComfortablySmug, and Ryan Broderick has taken on some seriously scary 4Chan posters during the "Cutting4Bieber" mess. It takes balls to take action, and they both did great work. Guys, if you're reading this, thank you.

All I ask of each and every one of you (and even myself) is this: before you post, write, tweet, or say anything, take the extra few seconds and think: could this hurt someone? If it does, then hold back. Your psyche will thank you later.

PS: Also, if you've never visited it before, check out PostSecret. You will find some of the most powerful inner thoughts of people around you, and sometimes you'll even feel you'll connect with them.

No comments: