It’s not news to me that people act differently online on social media to how they behave in real life social situations – I, for one, certainly do. I’m quite the introvert in real life, like my own company, peace and quiet. Online I’m a lot louder. I would rather eat my own head than stand up and speak (or rant) in front of a group of people, but have no inhibitions when it comes to airing my opinion online. It’s not that I won’t own my opinions because I do – here or elsewhere I take responsibility for what I say and do – it’s just that I hate being the centre of attention and simply too shy to in real life hold court. I doubt I’m the only one though.
However, I have clearly lived a very sheltered life here on the web and have largely escaped any viciousness or negativity. My first insight into how ruthless and mean people can be in these arenas came via a teenage girl who gets bullied – I was shown a sample of the abuse she receives online and it was beyond the pale. I swear like a sailor but I couldn’t repeat the language those bullies used, it was brutal and it was extreme. My second taste of how the tone changes on social media came when I checked my son’s phone. He is approaching 12 and the whole year group from his school have various chat threads on Whatsapp and I nearly had a fit when I read through one. Effing and blinding a’plenty.
I’m not daft enough to entertain any idea that my child behaves impeccably at all times, and indeed he has a potty mouth as much as the rest of them although a couple of the boys went a bit further. However, although their banter had a smattering of WTFs, Fs and dickheads, it was largely harmless. The girls though! Sweet Lord what a vicious little bunch. Not as many Fs but oh boy are they horrid to each other. Calculating and with a real pack mentality, homing in on what seemed to be two or three girls, one of whom expressed in one thread that she’d been off school sick because she’d had a panic attack in the morning due to anxiety over how she’s being bullied. Panic attacks at the age of TWELVE!
I let the deputy head know, asked they treated it confidentially but perhaps keep an eye to make sure the kids getting abuse don’t suffer intolerable bullying at school. Of course they can’t do much unless they witness something in the playground or in class, as these threads on Whatsapp aren’t anything to do with school, nor do they take place there.
Bloody internet! You can’t protect yourself from it!
My third taste was a bunch of responses to a comment I made on Facebook. Again, I own my actions and I stand by what I said: I called one of those cutsie stories a cliché. The FB page is quite a good one, lots of positive messages posted (which I pointed out) but sometimes I think it borders on indulgent. Most people I’ve come across who claim to be positive… ..aren’t. They’re trying hard to be but something inside is broken, it’s as if they repeat it often enough it’ll somehow become true and people who are actually positive just don’t behave like that. You know the crowd. And their true colours sure came out in the comment section following the little verbal grenade I threw in. I would have answered but realised it would have been futile, because the gloves were off and the fangs were out. And I don’t have the energy nor the inclination to engage on a level as low as that.
Disagree with me? Fine, no problem! I don’t have an issue with difference of opinion. What I have an issue with is the need to get personal. I mean, what are we – two years old? Push someone over because you went into full blown tantrum when they didn’t like the way you built your toy railway? Sorry, can’t be bothered.
I may be louder online but I have yet to spew abuse at someone because of their opinion. All together now, join hands and sing kumbaya! I was going to find an image with a cliché printed across a beautiful sunrise…..
At one point I may have got upset at being called this or that, but here’s the thing – do I actually believe that Jane or John Doe would speak to me like that if we were sitting here together in the same room? Nope. The teenage girl’s bullies? Nah. The kids at Monkey’s school? No chance. I think people forget online that these words still mean the same thing, but they’re thrown about in a different way. I reckon the girl’s bullies would be horrified if they could actually grasp the harm they are doing when they probably think they’re being funny. Good job I’m not a teenage girl, and also good job that I have with time learnt when to let things go and just shut the app down.