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. 


  1. Great post. It points out the fundamental thing that's wrong in our society, that the focus is always on how the victim copes with it, not stopping it in the first place.

    It reminds me of slightly something said on a different subject, sexual abuse, that society teaches women how not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape. We have such a reactive attitude, when really the root of the problem is not being addressed.

    And I really like the quote at the end too :)

  2. You are so right, when someone is raped it's always like 'oh she shouldn't have been walking that late by herself' etc. We are so backwards in our ways really.

  3. I wonder if part of why there's so little seeming action taken, or censure given, to the abusers - is that for individuals, it's possible to control our reactions to something that happens but not really possible to control others' actions. This extends to rape, bullying, road rage, domestic violence, lots of areas. I wonder if part of the reason that it seems to prevalent in incidents of bullying, is that unless physical harm is caused and easily provable, it's very difficult to take any legal action against verbal and emotional abusers?

    The best thing that I personally know to do when I see online cliques, bullying and harrassment - is to take a step back, go on about my business, and when things do blow up, if they blow up on friends of mine - be there to remind them: don't get yourself wound up over their poor behavior because it raises your blood pressure and their collective sense of self-worth.

  4. Yeah I see what you are saying but for some people words hurt more then actual physical abuse, I've seen horrible fake accounts made of people on fb, twitter etc and these kind of things can influence other peoples opinions on you and are there for the world to see and make fun of, I still think that people should not get away with that sort of behaviour.


Thank you for your comments!