So, this is not a new problem by any means whatsoever, but I’m already kind of on tilt today and seeing persistent cases of this is furthering it, so here are my two cents on online harassment/bullying.
First and foremost, beyond a shadow of a doubt does this problem exist. To claim otherwise is either being purposefully ignorant and showing a clear lack of empathy, or at best being blind to the situation.
This notion I’ve seen tossed around that if being harassed, you should just go offline is nothing short of absurd to me. It’s a place that everyone who has access has a “right” too. Sure, the internet is a privilege, but in this age where technology is only becoming more and more advanced with each passing day, and where outreach for what you love, your interests, etc. some avenues of income, and even hobbies can only be achieved by utilizing this tool. So, being that everyone has a right to be there, it should go without saying that they have a right to be there without being harassed, receiving death threats, constant bombardment of vitriolic statements, etc. You don’t have to agree with everything you read. You don’t have to agree with people’s opinions. But to go out of your way to tear them down because of that is sophomoric, and generally awful. That argument is the equivalent of telling a woman that if she doesn’t want to be catcalled, she shouldn’t go out in public. If a guy doesn’t want garbage thrown at him, he shouldn’t take a walk in the park. It’s not based on any sort of reality, and instead fruit of a seed planted that any sort of nay-saying to a disgusting portrayal of callousness is some sort of infringement of one’s right to free speech.
This is tangential, but for clarification “Free Speech” is not getting to say whatever the hell you want to whomever the hell you want free of consequence, but instead that you may voice your opinion without fear of governmental and judicial repercussions (And even in there are caveats, e.g. you can’t incite riotous behavior, slanderous or libelous statements are punishable, etc.). Even if you just consider it “harmless trolling”, should Facebook, Twitter, et al decide what you’re doing is detrimental to its image, them blocking or even banning your account is not, I repeat not an infringement of your first amendment rights. By creating an account with any of these social media platforms you agree to their ToS. Should they decide you violated that, they have every right (That you have given them in agreeing with their EUAs) to tell you to piss off. It isn’t censorship, and it certainly isn’t some mythical “SJW” or “PC” movement controlling the world with nothing better to do than decide that you out of 7.3 billion people should be stripped of your rights to voice your hateful comments. Just because you buy a dozen donuts at Dunkin Donuts doesn’t mean you can throw them at fellow patrons without being kicked to the curb.
From our phones, to now even our watches, we are interconnected to this series of tubes known as the Internet. Once you’re engaged, it takes a complete lifestyle shift to be disengaged from it. So when harassment takes place, bombardment of emails, tweets, (And this is some of the even more milder things people do), it follows that person. It affects their day-to-day lives. There isn’t a “lol just turn off your computer” option for that. It follows the victim wherever they go. What is happening is their “walk in the park” or their “going out in public” is being encroached upon. They’re being catcalled, they’re having garbage thrown at them and it’s senseless and 100% the fault of the aggressor. You’re going out of your way to make someone else’s life a living hell, you’re perpetuating a culture of abuse, and this is so detrimental to the human race as a whole on so many levels. When you’re called out for it, you’re being petulant to act like you’re being unduly silenced for being told to stop being an asshole.
At the end of the day, your friends, family, coworkers aren’t going to rat you out to the Thought Police to be whisked away never to be seen from again. I’m not saying you can’t have debates with someone, or that you have to raise a cup to everything someone says regardless of agreement or not. You don’t have to like their work. If you go out of your way to try to destroy that person’s life, what I am saying is you’re not leading a righteous procession to ‘burn the witch’, you’re completely denigrating another human being simply because you can’t reconcile within yourself that not everyone’s paradigm has to be your own. You don’t have to even agree with some of the things I’ve said here, but I implore you to demonstrate a bit of self-awareness and act with some grace and empathy, when you disagree with someone, when you argue, consider that they are a human being just as you are.