Morals and Social Media: Why is Abuse Okay Online?
Don’t you just love social media? It’s an all-encompassing web of connection that allows us to touch the far corners of the globe without ever having to leave the house. Distant friends in far away lands end up right in front of our faces. Businesses grow, musicians found and everyone is connected. But with the beauty of detached communications comes the inevitable downside – obnoxious behaviour. Scratch under the surface and you find examples everywhere. Those who take comfort in the glow of the computer screen, and the soothing sound of a tapping keyboard, as they etch out their mark of infamy on cyberspace, in the form of random and ruthless vitriol. But what happens when this mentality flows into the social consciousness of a generation who will spend 90% of their free time online?
Alright here’s a hypothetical example, you see someone bullied on the street, and, sociopaths aside, the standard reaction is one of sympathy, and hopefully, most people would step in and put a stop to it. See it online, and the result is much different, it’s a happy time, a free for all, feeding time at the zoo. For years, the internet was a marvel, an invention to bring us closer, and now we’ve sadly gone full circle. The division between what is permissible on the street and what is permissible online has never been greater.
Whether it’s ‘Jessi Slaughter,’ whose youtube videos landed her in the centre of a 4chan trolling campaign, or Reece Messer’s choice words directed at Tom Daley and his father, this type of hounding and hate stems from bored people who are unwavering in their misguided belief of committing a victimless crime.
But it isn’t the source that causes the most hurt is it? It’s the trickling down of this humiliation into the mainstream. God only knows how it feels to have the whole world laugh at you.
Trolling is now a crime written into the country’s law, and stories of online hate do the journalistic rounds every year, so why haven’t attitudes changed? In short it’s because of the idea that an online space gives you the freedom of limited accountability, and the casual mindset that you’re just mocking an image, or a video, not an actual human being. We’re all guilty, as an avid football fan, it will take you a mere 40-second scroll through my twitter feed to find a not very nice tweet referencing a footballer I’m not too keen on. “They’re not gonna see it; ergo it won’t harm them,” that’s a dangerous philosophy – one we’ve allowed to take over our online consciousness.
The normalisation of degrading and abusive behaviour has leaked through every crack of our online world, which we cherish so dearly, increased by ignorant celebrities and people with a platform, who really should know better.
Take Azealia Banks‘ recent abusive tirade directed at Zayn Malik. And Katie Hopkins, come on, what’s that about? Her Twitter feed is a hive of putrid vitriol. She’ll tell you she’s just “not afraid to speak her mind,” when in fact, it’s all spin.
It’s a longing grasp for the promised land of relevance; she’s placing herself in the public eye by being a horrible person. And that’s when we get to the root of the problem. We’re teaching people that the only way to get noticed is to be thoroughly unpleasant. And when you start sending that message out, you’re playing with fire, and inspiring a collective of individuals who’s only wish is to be noticed, and the worst part is it’s diverting them channeling this need into something positive.