CYBERBULLYING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
I think that somebody’s comments become cyberbullying when they start adversely affecting another individual.
For instance, Michelle Ferrier, a writer, received many hateful comments from her readers because she discussed her African-American background in the “Daytona Beach News-Journal.”
One person wrote this to Ferrier, “All you people do is cry, bitch, wine [sic], bitch.”
Ferrier was worried for her safety so she “started carrying a gun to protect herself and her family until eventually she left her job at the paper in 2009,” according to the “Columbia Journalism Review.”
I think that when people start throwing racial abuse and slurs on social media, then this online harassment crosses the line. Threatening speech is never okay.
Additionally, there was the article we read about the case of the referee named John Higgins who had to delete his Facebook account because of online harassment. Moreover, he felt harassed to the point where he was afraid for his own safety.
“People on the other end of the [telephone] line have been calling in with death threats towards Higgins, causing him to be panicked over the whole ordeal.” Also, “Higgins felt so disturbed by the messages that he met with law enforcement for over two hours Tuesday.”
Another example of the case of cyberbullying is the case of Monica Lewinsky. According to her TED talk, “[Lewinsky] was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, that woman.” In a New York Times article, Jessica Bennett , the author, writes that, “When I was 16, one dominating image of Monica Lewinsky seemed to overshadow all others: slut.“
I think cyberbullying goes too far when it causes people to commit suicide. Lewinsky discussed the case of Tyler Clementi.
“Tyler was secretly webcammed by his roommate while being intimate with another man. When the online world learned of this incident, the ridicule and cyberbullying ignited. A few days later, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death. He was 18.”
According to Lewinsky’s TED talk, “Every day online, people, especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day, and some, tragically, don’t, and there’s nothing virtual about that.”
Speaking of suicide and cyberbullying, Lewinsky’s parents were afraid that she was going to kill herself because of the harassment she faced. Her mother “sat by [her] bed every night,” and her mother “made [her] shower with the bathroom door open” to make sure that she did not commit suicide.
REFLECTION ON THE CASE OF JUSTINE SACCO
According to The New York Times article by Jon Ronson, he writes that, “As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive.”
I think it is interesting that public shaming has turned to private figures and individuals. Typically, one might think that celebrities are the target of public shaming because they are always in the spotlight. Nevertheless, it might be surprising to some people that private figures such as Justine Sacco can be the target of public shaming.
Her tweet — which was under 140 characters — literally transformed her life. She lost her job, and this notorious tweet will forever be plastered on the internet for everyone to see. As one Twitter use put it, “Sorry @JustineSacco, your tweet lives on forever.” That must be so awful and damaging for Justine Sacco’s reputation to be known all her life as the woman with the racist tweet.
I do not think it is fair to judge Sacco by one mere tweet. She is more than that. She is a human person. She has changed for the better. I don’t think that it is right to judge people by their past actions if they have committed themselves to being a better person. For instance, it is not like Sacco is still tweeting incredibly racist and controversial tweets. She has changed and learned from her mistake.
I can see why she thought it was an accident. She only intended the tweet to be for her friends. She wanted the tweet to be interpreted sarcastically. She was surprised that the tweet went viral because she did not realize that her Twitter account is public for the whole world to see. I think everyone can learn from Justine Sacco’s mistake and try to not publish irresponsible messages on social media.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF PUBLIC SHAMING
Ronson interviewed the people who were adversely affected by public shaming. According to The New York Times, “The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.”
I feel so sorry for all these people that made mistakes on social media. I do not think that a person’s mistakes on social media should define who they are a person. I do not think you should lose your job for a stupid tweet. As Ronson writes, Justine Sacco’s “punishment simply didn’t fit the crime.” Additionally, she has trouble finding someone to date. According to the New York Times article, “I’m single; so it’s not like I can date, because we Google everyone we might date.” In the same way, Monica Lewinsky has not fully recovered from the scandal that she was involved in. According to a New York Times article by Jessica Bennett, “At 41, she doesn’t have many of the things that a person her age may want: a permanent residence, an obvious source of income (she won’t comment on her finances), a clear career path.”
I think that the consequences of both Justine Sacco’s and Monica Lewinsky’s actions are severe because both women have not fully recovered from their experiences with public shaming.
HOW SHOULD WE REACT TO SEEING SOMETHING THAT MAKES US ANGRY AND UPSET ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
When we see something that makes us upset on social media, I do not think it is a good idea for all of the social media users to chime in and attack and victimize others on social media. Would you want somebody to do that to you if you were in that situation? How would you like to be Monica Lewinsky? Would you like to be the subject of public ridicule? Would you want to make the situation worse for another individual? Another example of public shaming is the case of the dentist named Walter Palmer that shot a lion in Zimbabwe. He had to close his practice because of public shaming, according to The New York Times. I think losing your dentist practice is such a harsh consequence for killing a lion. Online social media users should just get over whatever is making them upset and move on.
GETTING OFF SOCIAL MEDIA?
Some people might not want to use social media because they do not like being the victim of public shaming.
For instance, Leslie Jones, an actor, was being attacked on Twitter because people were really upset that there were women in “Ghostbusters” and also she was attacked with racial slurs, according to “The Guardian.”
Because she was threatened racially and as a women, she got off of Twitter. After taking a break from Twitter, she reactivated her Twitter account, according to CNN.
Jones is just one example of celebrities taking breaks from social media. I think that getting off social media is one alternative if one cannot handle the hate on social media.
Others might not like the public atmosphere of Twitter, so they may opt out of using it altogether. In the case of Justine Sacco, the tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” was such a dumb thing to write and broadcast on Twitter. Some people might be afraid to mistakenly publish something controversial just like Justine Sacco did, and these people might choose to not use social media. Yet, I do not think that one should be afraid to use social media because of Sacco’s experience. At the same time, I think that Sacco should have been more savvy about what she tweeted because she was in PR. I think that there are some topics that one might just talk about to their friends and not to everyone on social media such as Sacco’s racist tweet.
According to Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk, she discusses that social media rewards cyberbullying. She says that, “This invasion of others is a raw material, efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.”
Oh, what a shame. That is so depressing that social media is being used to make money off of other people’s embarrassing mistakes.
THE SOLUTION TO ONLINE HATE: COUNTERING AND FIGHTING PUBLIC SHAMING, CYBERBULLYING AND ONLINE HARASSMENT
Can social media be a more compassionate place? In Lewinsky’s TED talk, she discusses that, ” … it was the compassion and empathy from my family, friends, professionals, and sometimes even strangers that saved me.”
One of the reasons she gave the TED talk was to “help others who had been similarly humiliated,” according to The New York Times. I agree with Lewinsky’s strategy to combat cyberbullying. She says that it is important to refute online cyberbullying with positive comments. According to Lewinsky, “we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.” She thinks that, “compassionate comments help abate the negativity.”
Likewise, Lewinsky discussed the Tyler Clementi Foundation, Anti-Bullying Pro, and Project Rockit that try to combat the issue of cyberbullying.
Additionally, TrollBusters is an organization that fights the harassment on “Twitter with positive, supportive messages, which … provide a counter narrative to drown out hateful trolling,” according to the “Columbia Journalism Review.”
TrollBusters is at least something to combat cyberbullying. This organization is trying to make sure that people do not feel like they are under attack, isolated and that there are people who support the victims of cyberbullying.
HOW WE SHOULD REACT AND ENGAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
While free speech advocates argue that one should protect speech that one does not like and hates, I think that people should responsibly use social media and not use it to the detriment of others. I think that more communication is better than less. I do not think it is right to censor views that one does not like. At the same time, I think that cyberbullies can take online harassment too far. As aforementioned, some people KILL themselves because they cannot stand the online harassment. Many people do not think that there is a PERSON behind the screen. Maybe they should “THINK” about their actions on social media.
In conclusion, I think the acronym THINK is a good sentiment to end on. Is what you are posting thoughtful, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind? Every social media message does not have to encompass all of the THINK acronym, but it should try to incorporate one aspect of this acronym.
In regard to social media, if one is ever the target of cyberbullying, I think that it is important to remember the advice from Monica Lewinsky. She survived some of the worst cyberbullying imaginable. If she can survive, then anyone can too. It is so important to have hope that one’s situation will get better.
“You can survive it,” Lewinsky said. “I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story. Have compassion for yourself. We all deserve compassion, and to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.”