You can be an asshole on the Internet, but why?
On Monday I began listening to Invisibilia’s most recent episode, Our Computers, Ourselves and finished it yesterday afternoon.
The second half of the show strongly resonated in my mind. As the story goes, this commuter train rider was tired of rude commuters so he started a Twitter account where he’d post pictures of the infractions in attempt to shame rude people on the train. His crowd shaming efforts soon turned shameful. Not only did he post pictures of rude behavior, but he began being rude himself – the worst was posting a picture of a woman with terrible acne scarring and making a snide remark. When word about this Twitter account got out, his followers skyrocketed.
I’m sure there are other situations like this. Person is a jerk. People are fascinated by the tragedy. Jerk gets an audience.
Why are we as society so fascinated with the negative?
Why is it ok to say these things on the Internet?
The Internet is full of trolls. (See: This American Life “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS”) I theorize the troll to person ratio is 4:1. They will troll on anyone for any unconceivable reason. Even worse than the trolls are completely heinous dungeon dwellers. These individuals find it completely acceptable to threaten women, often with vicious, violent acts.
Gender-based violence is nothing new. There are still people in society who will say such comments or threats to a woman’s face, but the cloak of invisibility people feel the Internet provides seems to turn down the volume on the super-ego and unleash the unbridled id.
Unfortunately it seems to take a rally cry, hash tagging and a bunch of blogging to hold social media venues accountable for reacting to gender-based violence. For now, most offenses still receive boiler plate responses that include phrases like:
Just like when we are interacting in a public space we may overhear conversations that are offensive…
This same platform chirped further about how users can find such content “frustrating”. Yes, being told to “go get raped” or “get raped with a broken bottle” is totally frustrating, just like this rush hour traffic.
It is never ok to suggest or threaten violence against anyone. This plague of gender-based violence is open for everyone to see and affect. The best cure for a bully is an ally. Stand up and be an ally against gender-based violence. Don’t give the assholes an audience, report their heinous behavior, and their soapbox will cave in.