This week I have watched so much stupidity unfold on social networking that it’s actually inspired an entire post. It’s all been different issues on the surface, no one specific person or argument is to blame, but several of my friends have decided to delete their social media presence after enduring multiple attacks on multiple fronts. While it all seems to be different issues, the core of the problem remains the same: those who speak their opinions, display understanding and empathy are easy targets for those who can/do not. Which results in an often times psychological war of epic proportions. Name calling, hate spewing, threatening, demeaning, otherwise completely inappropriate social behavior reigns mostly unchecked on the interwebs and I am sick and tired of it.
Of course my one little blog post doesn’t really affect the situation as a whole, but that’s just it. How many people choose to remain silent out of fear that those who would troll and attack them are waiting around the corner, wishing and praying for an opportunity? How many posts are written and then deleted, memories altered or opinions watered down for the ever more sensitive masses? That’s not how the internet is supposed to work, yet in recent years that’s what it’s become and because it dominates our society so much society itself has become bitter, resentful and offended at every little thing.
I’ve struggled with my own brand of cyber harassment ever since I started blogging. Granted it hasn’t been some random person who’s been giving me grief, I know them, but it doesn’t make it any less damaging or stressful just a random acquaintance decided to obsess over my writing and felt the need to add commentary to it both here and other social websites. For a long time it really bothered me even though for a while we were trading public barbs back and forth pretty equally. I felt responsible for their unhappiness because they blamed me for their unhappiness and due to my empathy I could see how they felt, and then the self doubt crept in.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized while what I might have to say has an emotional impact on my Haterade Fan Club, I’m not responsible for the way they choose to deal with their unpleasant emotions. I’m not obligated to defend my honor when they lash out at me, I don’t even have to listen to anything they have to say if it isn’t civil, or productive. As long as I remain respectful by keeping them anonymous the rest of it is irrelevant. It’s taken me quite a while to understand that, it was even harder to walk away from the obnoxious public posts, but in the end it’s worked out for the best. Putting a limit on my compassion, and choosing to ignore them has given me the freedom to unload a whoooooooooooooooooooooooooole lot of baggage that I’ve been carting around with me for a very long time.
Now, on those rare occasions that curiosity does get the best of me (ahem Twitter thing) and I find that obnoxious public post waiting for me, or notice an odd number of views from a link to a particular source and go to investigate what I find doesn’t bother me. In fact more often than not, it only serves to solidify my decision to ignore anything my gaggle of haters has to say. Not to mention I’m only one person on their list of people who “deserve” to be publicly ridiculed for a difference of opinion or any number of other perceived slights. The hate isn’t always directed at me which has become more obvious the longer I’ve ignored them.
It truly isn’t me causing their inner turmoil, which of course everyone generally knows when it comes to trolling or other cyber bullying shenanigans. But sometimes even what we know beyond the shadow of a doubt doesn’t take the sting away from hurtful words, the fear from being relentlessly pursued with hatred no matter how much one tries to make amends, or walk away. It doesn’t always curb the sadness and self doubt that lingers after enduring a cyber attack. Especially when it’s a violation of your privacy. When the attacks begin to go beyond the idle talk and venture into actions like hacking into private accounts, and acts of physical violence. It takes a toll on you, mentally and physically.
No matter how much kindness you may have, or how much you might understand your abusers (because let’s face it, what they’re doing goes beyond voicing their opinions, it’s text book abusive behavior) you have to draw the line. That doesn’t make you malevolent, it doesn’t make you a coward, it simply means you value your sanity. Two things will happen: they will either intensify their efforts, or realize what giant douche canoes they have been and leave you alone. Either way, taking the time to care for yourself first and ignore the manipulative, pity party posts will do a world of good.
More people need to know that. Trolls, cyber bullies, and abusers will always be around looking for an easy target with which to enhance their fragile ego, no matter how much we preach equality or diversity, hateful unhappy people are always going to be hateful and unhappy until they make the decision for themselves to change their behavior. No amount of compassion will inspire change until they are ready for it, and even then that day may never come. The adage “Do no harm, but take no shit” is really a great reminder of how to take care of yourself. Much more than an internet cliche.