Sunday, 29 January 2012

Online Abuse - The Never-ending Story ?

"I consider myself lucky as I have never been the victim of internet abuse." There is something fundamentally wrong with that sentence. No one should have to consider themselves lucky, internet abuse should not happen full stop. Like all forms of abuse, whether it's bullying (physical and emotional) in school, the workplace etc or being in an abusive relationship, all the focus appears to be on what to do if you are a victim. Victims are told various ways to help stop the abuse happening, they are advised to confide in someone they trust, make use of help lines etc. However, the focus is never on telling the abuser to STOP what they are doing, this part is just crammed in as a footnote. This seems so bizarre to me. 
Too many people have  cried themselves to sleep, self harmed and died because of abuse they received online. Yet it seems that  people are free to do and say whatever they want about people they know or complete strangers as they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet. I am all for free speech but what about freedom from harassment?  There is a difference between having an opinion and  posting vile abusive messages on someone's youtube, twitter, facebook page whether as a one off or on a continuous basis. I don't think I'll ever understand how people can attack a person in such vicious ways, have they no respect for other people or even themselves? 
It is easy to tell someone to ignore it but you can never know how a person reacts to receiving hurtful comments, some may shrug it off, but for others it may chip away at their confidence because as soon as something hateful is posted  it is not always easily removed from the internet or your mind.This is not a sign of weakness by the way, everyone reacts to every situation in a different way, it's part of the human condition. 
Regardless of weather you are in the public eye or just some girl blogging from her bedroom, no one deserves to be the subject of a hate campaign. The internet certainly highlights how nasty and selfish people really are, always trying to catch people out, judging them by reading into every tweet or facebook status. 
So what can be done to solve this problem? Do we make it the schools/parents  responsibility  to supervise their kids when they are online? However internet bullying isn't confined to those under 18 so do we bring in laws to punish  offenders in the more serious cases? But who are we to  judge what is serious or a minor form of harassment. Or do we simply say c'est la vie and allow  bullying and abusive messages to be  part of everyday life? 
I really don't know, from what I've witnessed online a majority of humans seem to be, unfortunately, beyond the prospect of developing any kind of  moral conscience. Perhaps any hope  I have for a hate free internet community  depends on whether the leopard  can change it's spots...
Again, I think that self respect is a lot of the problem but not a valid excuse. I leave you with this quote by Laurence  Sterne:
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.