If you don’t have anything nice to say, stay out of the comments.
There was a time, a simpler, less informed one when you learned from the 6 o’clock news, people undoubtably knew that the world was round, people trusted science, and you thought that people were in general, pretty decent overall.
Then came the internet.
I remember the days of Freenet message boards, and I used them. Our dial up became more sophisticated, as did our internet eventually. The social networking tools I used in the early days were Yahoo chat rooms and ICQ. I was connecting to strangers and friends alike. I was just enjoying the interaction, no more, no less.
The interactions we had online were different then. I don’t remember anything overly negative, but that might not be the case.
Social networking has undoubtedly evolved. All information is at our fingertips. We no longer get news at 6pm, but at all hours of the day, sometimes from user run media sources. Twitter is an excellent example of this. If something is happening in Ottawa, I’ll know it within seconds. We are aware of accidents in real time. This is actually the positive side of the coin. Our overall awareness on a myriad of subjects is incredible.
I use the internet for two purposes lately when it comes to non work or school related tasks: Share pictures of my beautiful family and updates on how we are coping together, and to raise awareness (my own and others) on social injustices.
Lately I have been very focused on Black Lives Matter – it’s an urgent cause. But I care about so many things: Women’s rights, Animal rights, Education and Health cuts, Environmental issues, Missing and Murdered indigenous women and girls, LGBTQ+ rights. I want to have information, and I want others to have it too – it feels like we are on equal ground, or moving toward it, the more we know about people that are different from ourselves. To be informed and in defense of voices who can’t or aren’t being heard – is a privilege.
Sadly, it also leads to the rise of ignorance. There are voices online who battle change and don’t care who they have to belittle via their internet rage.
Recently, I have admittedly been engaging with some of these bullies to an exhausting degree. Over nothing other than, embarrassingly Aunt Jemima table syrop. More directly, the outrage some feel over the long overdue name change of the Aunt Jemima pancake products.
From my perspective, society must be open to change to evolve as a whole. From small changes like changing offensive product names, to bigger movements, like ensuring there are more film projects getting funding and recognition that are led by marginalized people. And of course, huge, civil rights movements. This is how we do better for our children, our future.
Those who are resistant to change are often the ones who need it in their lives the most. I have tried different tactics to engage these people in hopes they might open their minds a little.
I have tried kindness, I have tried asking questions to engage thoughtful back and forth. I have failed at almost each attempt. It almost always results in the bullies insulting me harder. And of course – being called a snowflake.
Does caring about others make me worthy of “snowflake” status or does it make the people having a meltdown on me over a PepsiCo product a “snowflake”? If I’m the snowflake, let it storm. I simply cannot be silent about things that matter.
My theory is that, perhaps if we were face to face, we might be able to have a coffee and smile at each other, and have a civilized discussion. Behind the veil of (false) anonymity of their computer screens, people do not listen. There’s no embarrassment in ignorance this way. There’s no shame in blatant negativity. And no regret for hurting someone. This theory can sometimes be called dissociative anonymity.
Here is a great video on trolls and when dissociative anonymity comes in to play:
Every news story has a comment section no matter what platform of social media brought you to it. This is how we connect to each other. The comment section can be full of hate. Racist, homophobic, sexist remarks. The more informed as a human I become, the more I see the resistance to evolution in others.
Could it be that they want a flat earth with no vaccines full of just…white people?
I have to, for my sanity, believe that’s not the case and that these voices seem louder because they have nothing to lose. Of course, sometimes they are paid bots.
Is avoiding the comment section the best possible solution?
I don’t know, and I’m not going to pretend to. I have learned, wholeheartedly that there are rarely arguments of value. In my eyes, there is no debate when it comes to human rights. For some, the line is drawn at the name change to their favorite pancake mix, because it reminds them of their childhood.
For now, at least. I have to stay out of the comments. How about you? What’s your tactic, and have you ever had success debating someone on an issue you felt passionately about online?
Sources and further reading:
The Internet Trolls have won. Sorry, there’s not much you can do (The New York Times)
7 Effective Tactics to Defeat Internet Trolls (Search Engine Journal)
Good riddance Aunt Jemima, and Goodbye to Uncle Ben too (The Globe and Mail)
Follow me on my other Social Media! 🙂
Don’t feed the trolls: advice from a Proud Snowflake: https://bit.ly/2Z2sIVo
Trolls are cancelled! Stay out of the comments: https://bit.ly/2Z2sIVo