If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
After writing my post on respect last week, it got me thinking about a deeper issue that is being created by the online community under the much abused banner of ‘Freedom of Speech’.
Witnessing the sloping shoulders of groups who believe there is nothing wrong with voicing their thoughts and opinions, while refusing to be held accountable for the vindictive cruelty they display, took me back to the early days of secondary school where I was subjected to consistent verbal bullying by some of my peers for 2 years. I was regularly ostracised simply because I didn’t dress the way they did, didn’t look attractive in their eyes, and favoured learning rather than slacking off. They even sought to vilify me for my father’s non-working class profession (which was predominant in the place that I grew up, along with the surrounding areas).
I had done nothing to justify any of this hatred other than exist, so when you peeled back the layers on the motivation behind it all, it boiled down to two things, jealousy, plus a dislike for their own personal situation. I was an easy target because being a quiet person who shied away from conflict, I was less likely to fight back or challenge how they were treating me.
It took a long time for me to rationalise in my mind that I had done nothing wrong, that their cruelty was unjustifiable, actually the issue lay them, not me. Once you wrap your head around that, you realise just how deplorable it is for someone to belittle another person’s self-worth. As I said in my post about respect – it actually speaks volumes about the kind of person they are.
Which brings me to the newest form of victimisation– the internet, and in particular social media.
Flaming, trolling or bullying – whatever term you wish to use, it’s abusive behaviour; vitriol aimed at people whose worst crime appears to be just sharing a life with someone. Camouflaging your insulting words under the guise of ‘expressing your opinion’ just shows you to be a poor excuse for a human being. Legitimising your activities, when you wouldn’t stand for it being done towards yourself, or someone you care for/support just makes you a hypocrite on top of everything else.
Standing on a soap box picking holes in a person with anyone who will listen to or agree with you, is not healthy discussion, it is not exercising your right to freedom of speech, it is hiding behind a right that has been afforded to you while manipulating the privilege to fit whatever petty agenda you might have.
Seeking to publicly marginalise an individual because in your eyes they are not worthy of something/someone or you deem them inferior to you, is just an extension of intimidation similar to a thug in the playground who pushes a smaller child around because they unlikely to fight back. Attacking someone either indirectly or via a third party on social media is just as reprehensible, because those that behave in this way hide behind the protection of whatever piece of technology they’re using to ‘voice their opinion’ safe in the knowledge that those they’re attacking are unlikely to see their words or even if they do, they won’t respond.
Sadly the policing of social channels when it comes to this sort of stuff falls at the feet of the user, if you find what somebody says online offensive then the onus is on you to report that account for their behaviour. You then have to hope that the service provider agrees with your assessment for anything to be done about it.
Thankfully in the UK, our criminal justice system now views cyber bullying as a chargeable offense. If someone is the victim of it then they can take action, however if the hatred aimed at a person is done in an indirect way i.e. they don’t have a Twitter account and it’s done under the pretext of a group of like-minded individuals just having a discussion, then that’s where they get away with it.
It has become particularly prevalent in the world of show business where actors, musicians and the like become subjected to this kind of behaviour on a regular basis, and it’s not just them directly that come under attack. It would appear their personal & family lives area hot topic of consternation & criticism.
Now I will freely admit that the topic of this blog has sprung from things I’ve seen for myself relating to an actor that I admire. Jamie Dornan and his wife in particular have become the subject of some really unpleasant stuff being put out in the ether. The reason for this? He took an acting job and now a crowd have decided he’s living a lie and that his co-star is his true love (please feel free to roll your eyes or snort at this, I do regularly!). However, the issue runs deeper than this single example, and I have barely scratched the surface.
In the realm of celebrity, cyber bullying and trolling is something that is brushed off by those dishing it out because in their eyes the individual ‘can take it’ but it can still have a damaging effect on those being targeted. A large portion of the time it is often other fans who attempt to pull those being offensive up on their actions & attitudes, but this typically results in West Side Story style bunch of drama with battle lines drawn, lots of name calling followed by angry blocking of profiles. Of course those that were flinging insults in the first place are utterly outraged that they’ve been treated in such a way, and are quick to play the victim because they were just minding their own business, having a ‘bit of banter’ with their mates.
NEWSFLASH – you pedal vitriol or snide comments about someone (famous or not) in a public forum while believing you’re exempt from backlash or to be challenged over your behaviour…think again! The very nature of social media means that any person can and will call you out when you pick on someone that isn’t likely to be in a position to defend themselves. You put your comments out there for all to see, you are fair game to be highlighted as the appalling human being you show yourself up to be. It doesn’t give credence to what you perceive to be the truth, it just highlights what a shitty individual you are for wishing ill on somebody.
Incidentally what actually ends up happening in response to this vile conduct for the greater part isn’t OK either. It becomes a far less classy exchange, whereby 2 sides of a so called ‘fandom’ start hurling insults at each other to prove their point. It becomes a mirror of the school playground where a friend steps in to defend their mate who is being harassed, then, because they dare to stand up to the abuser they also become the target because that’s the only way the bully knows how to respond. Ultimately an all-out brawl ensues, meaning nobody has the moral high ground because it’s all just become a giant mess of idiotic comments.
This is exactly what I’ve been spectator to over the last couple of weeks. It’s not something I particularly want to see, but quite often thanks to the wonderful world of sharing or retweeting, it is often impossible to avoid.
You don’t have to dig very far to find some disgusting behaviour from individuals who seem to think that because a person is in the public eye for whatever reason, they automatically become public property, thus giving these people the right to say whatever the hell they like to and about the celebrity in question or their immediate family. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is absolutely riddled with posts containing offensive comments either directly to these celebrities or via dedicated hate accounts so they can use their so called ‘freedom of speech’ to just bash individuals that they find objectionable.
It’s no surprise that the celebrities they claim to worship won’t come anywhere near social media – not when they’re confronted by a gang who think it’s OK to spew bilge about husbands, wives, partners and children. To top things off, they then have an aggressive amount of criticism levelled at them for not being on social media, thus giving these bullies yet another reason to express indignation. They’re not your property to treat how you see fit (those that post graphic sexual comments directly to them would also do well to remember this).
Get a grip!
We all have things we care about, the things we would happily defend to the death, and that’s great. However, targeting someone because you want their life to crumble just so it can facilitate the fantasy you’ve created in your head based on something you think you’ve seen on screen or in photographs…that is definitely not OK. Attacking those who seek to respectfully defend the targets of your shameful actions, again, not OK.
I’m not saying you have to like everyone, I’m not even giving instruction on who you should and shouldn’t like, but nobody deserves scorn, hatred and revolting things said about them or their family members just because it doesn’t fit into the invented image or relationship you’ve concocted based on two people who worked together on a job. Not everyone is Brangelina!
On that note, I shall let Ian Somerhalder have the last few words.