Have you ever read the comment section of a controversial social media post, article, or YouTube video? If not, the best advice I can give you before going into one of those comment sections is this:
A lot of times when someone does something that the internet deems bad, stupid, disgusting, or any emotion that can incite a negative reaction, users on social media are not afraid to let the person in question know how they really feel. And a lot of times, there’s zero censorship or boundaries involved when online users voice their opinions on something. These kinds of posts can cause users to go from berating the poster in question, to unwarranted hostility.
Take Justine Sacco for example. When Twitter users caught wind of her offensive tweet on her way to Africa, it caused a massive storm of hate directed straight for her. While the trending #HasJustineLandedYet was more meant to publically shame Sacoo, other users went above and beyond the shaming, and not in a good sense. Many of these commenters undoubtedly had hate-filled messages, and sometimes could be threatening, causing Sacco to feel unsafe for her life.
This is an unfortunate pattern with aggressive commentators on social media; many people who comment threatening messages on other people’s posts don’t often realize that there is another person behind the screen that reads every single one of the messages they receive. It’s as simple as one human being being hateful and violent to another human being and not feeling any kind of remorse for the words said to them. But it’s very easy for people to disassociate the thought of another person reading their messages when hundreds or thousands of other people are doing the same thing. They may not realize it, but jumping on a bandwagon full of hate is a form of cyber-bullying.
It is unfortunate that the internet does seem to reward those who “shame” others on the web. In fact, some websites simply live for that shaming alone. Take Reddit, for example. Many users on Reddit earn “upvotes” simply for being snarky and making mean comments to other users, or joining on bandwagons that attack unpopular, big name figureheads. In some cases, the act of making snarky, rude comments to each other is simply for comedic value, as is the case for the subreddit “Roast Me,” where users ask other users to, as stated in the title, roast them. In less lighthearted cases, there can be subreddits that support hate-speech against certain people, including subreddits like “Fat People Hate,” which the admins of Reddit banned from the website, along with several other subreddits, as a response to their new anti-harassment policies.
So there is an absolute difference in being mean and snarky in a humorous, playful way, as opposed to the often times hate-filled, threatening way that some users on social media may experience. It’s hard to say what the solution is to a problem this big, as this can happen on any type of website, whether it be social media, blogs, news sites, etc.. But in Monica Lewinsky’s case, it is possible to overcome the hate and grow stronger from it. She showed that despite how much hate you receive, you can still continue your life to becoming a successful person in the world.
In this new day and age of social media, it may be important to look back at an old adage and make one small adjustment: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…”
…but words can have a bigger impact than you think.