Social media is supposed to be an easy way to network, share ideas and have social discussions. But because it’s mostly unchecked and unregulated, people can get really rude, disrespectful and insensitive. I see it happening all the time; strangers verbally attacking each other on social media because of their different views or beliefs, and sometimes for no good reason at all. Sometimes, it is clearly done with the intent of hurting the image and/or feelings of someone.
Doing it on a keyboard from behind a screen doesn’t change what bullying is. It’s called cyberbullying, and our generation is becoming increasingly comfortable with this behaviour. It doesn’t seem to take much to upset many people, sometimes a simple question you ask can lead to your whole life being scrutinized, for the purpose of discrediting. To what end?
If we will get offended by everything, we don’t agree with on social media, we will be pissed off all our life. And if your go-to response is disrespect and hostility, really it says more about you than anyone else. Someone not agreeing with us gives us no right to call them names or cuss them out. They are entitled to their opinion, just as we’re entitled to ours. And if you think there’s nothing wrong with throwing out a few cuss words at a stranger on the internet, then think again.
Ask yourself; what am I hoping to achieve by bullying someone on social media. Are you hoping to win them over? Or are you trying to scare them off? What is your motivation? I personally think the effort it takes to type up a whole negative message in response to a stranger on the internet, is fueled by misery and insecurity.
No happy, secure person does that. Many people do it for clout; the likes, shares and retweets give them some sense of validation. To them, I say, allow others to be human. Let them make their own mistakes and figure out their own choices, even if you think it is bad for “their lives”.
We are all learning our way around this life thing, the rules are changing all the time and there are so many moving pieces that mistakes are inevitable. No one has to be perfect, we just have to be human. As the perfectly imperfect beings we are, mistakes are part of the experience. An environment that punishes mistakes inevitably silences many voices through this intimidation. If there is a point to be made, make it respectfully. If you want to help someone understand your point, message them or talk to them directly. You tweeting/posting about it, ridiculing them helps neither you nor them in no way. If you are trying to get them on your side, embarrassment is not the way to go.
Everything we know today we have learned along our life journey. And imagine if, at some point in your life, someone tore you down for every small mistake you make, or have ever made. So, instead of ridiculing others, maybe correct them? Without you becoming sometimes the very thing you claim to oppose.
If changing mindsets is not your goal, then don’t be bothered by what others are saying on social networks. There is nothing cool about breaking down another human being. We can and should do better as an online community.
Paula Christoph’s column concentrates on positive and inspirational write-ups every second Friday in the New Era newspaper.