Ellen Degeneres ends every episode of her daytime talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, by saying, “Be kind to one another.” A simple message. One that most seem to be able to embrace and practice in the world real world. It’s not too hard.
But online is a different story. Interactions aren’t face-to-face, and we’re given the ability to be anonymous. We’re not held responsible for what we say, and because of that we are massively messing up.
Some post horrible things on the comment threads of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc. And for some reason it hasn’t gotten into the heads of many that these people – also known as trolls – that those hurtful words are actually hurting the person who created the content. Granted, most adults would be able to handle hurtful words that are typed into a comment section, but for the tweens and teens who are in the period of their life where they are influenced by many things, it can be crushing.
Today’s youth a have massive presence online. It’s like a separate world they exist in, but can harm them just as much as the real one. It doesn’t take much, either. The comment could be something like “This sucks” or “Worst thing ever,” but they tend to go straight for the jugular with comments directed straight at person like “Kill yourself” and “I hope you die.”
It’s even worse for those who post images of themselves. Body image critics can be brutal, which no doubt will have a negative effect on impressionable teenagers.
There’s a sense of human decency that seems to be lost when it comes to the online realm. And in a way understandable how such a thing could be lost as someone ventures into the digital world. There’s really no accountability. No one’s going to come crawling through your screen to scold you in-person for anything you posted online. You never have to see the face of the person as they read a negative message.
One of the main questions that remains unsolved is why — what brings someone to leave such a comment? There are those who say that it’s really not about the person, but a reflection of what’s going on in their lives. But even then, what leads them to do something so thoughtless and cruel?
There are those who don’t feel the comments they leave will affect the person in any real way. They’re just a bunch of empty words strung into a sentence and posted into a group of many other comments. They’re adding nonsense into the heap of nonsense that’s piling up wherever the ground floor of the Internet lays.
There are also those who will say that they didn’t really mean the comment to be so hurtful, or that they weren’t being serious. But honestly, if in 2015 regular users still need to be told how easy it is to take a comment from a stranger the wrong way, then maybe they need an Internet timeout.
But despite all this negativity, there are signs of hope. Last year, Australian video game reviewer Alanah Pearce was receiving threats via Twitter and Facebook, and found out that many of them came from teenage boys. Assuming that they probably just didn’t know any better, Jezebel reports that she found a way to contact their mothers, and was very pleased with the results.
Another instance happened more recently: a plus-sized man was dancing until he noticed he was being taped, and the ones recording were laughing at him. He stopped dancing and hung his head. But the Huffington Post reports that people started retaliating against the bullies and online personality Cassandra Rules, aka Cassandra Fairbanks, went on a mission to find the dancing man. Her mission was a success, using #FindDancingMan on Twitter, and invited the man to a dance party with over 1,000 women in Los Angeles.
Everyone from Moby to Pharrell Williams showed their support, and offered their services for the party. It also started a movement against body-shaming called the Dance Free Movement. The dancing man, now known as Sean from London, can be found at @Dancingmanfound.
Both of these instances are encouraging, but we have a long ways to go. The Internet is more popular than ever for today’s youth who seem to post every single thing online, leaving themselves open to harsh behavior from anyone with an Internet connection. It’s time to find a way bring to human decency to the online world.
Just like Ellen says, “Be kind kind to one another.” It’s not that hard.