Sunday 18 August 2013

Sunday Sundries: The internet is not an evil place

Oh man you guys, literally hours after I posted my 'yay, everything is awesome!' Sunday Sundries last week, my nan went and broke her wrist like a DIV (no, I love her but

and so my mum's been round there a lot helping out like an awesome daughter and I've been doing stuff (making dinner and whatnot) at home to try and help out some. Basically it wasn't the ideal thing to have happened, but it did and we make the best of it but JESUS. Also I felt like an idiot for going 'yay everything!' but sometimes you have to even if everything is only cool for a few days!

But anyway. Enough of the mess of my family's health, cause that's not even what I want to talk about today. That's right, today for the first time in maybe MONTHS I have an actual topic for my Sunday Sundries, which is awesome because I don't have to pretend anything interesting has happened in my life! (It really hasn't. Except BREAKING BAD IS BACK OMG LIFE HIGHLIGHT). So here I go with my thing.
So the paper we get at home (it's a tabloid, so you can pretty much just ignore it) is ablaze with righteous indignation about this girl who, having been on this website, where (it seems) people can ask you anything they want to know and being told to 'kill herself' a number of times, she actually went and did just that. (here's a bit of the story but really they've been running this all week). Now I know it's August which means there's no (sensational) news but this has been on the front of the Mirror for 2 weeks now, practically, and here's what I have a problem with.

Firstly, just to be clear, I think it's really terrible that a 14 year old girl killed herself. It's basically the worst, and I can't even imagine what that must be like for her parents, and her sister, and just generally everyone who knew her. It's a fucking tragedy. But here's the thing: all the blame for it is being put on the website that the abuse was received through, and I don't think that's fair at all. This is the kind of thing that could happen on any website where a person puts themselves out there (I mean, it could happen here, so thanks for not bullying me, everyone!) and it's the kind of thing that shouldn't happen at all, but hey, people are cruel and I don't think you can blame an entire social media platform for that.

Here's the part I don't understand, though. The people pouring abuse on this girl were people she didn't even know. They were literally anonymous online (like all the worst people on the internet) and it wasn't like she knew them in real life and had to be scared of seeing them on the streets. So why not just turn off her computer, or unsubscribe from and just walk away from the whole thing? Why continue listening to people telling you that you shouldn't even be alive- people who don't even have faces, or names, or anything, really? This isn't me blaming this girl, not at all, but I refuse to believe that it was only this that made her feel like she didn't even deserve to live anymore. It can't have been.

And so, when the Mirror argues that should be shut down, I just can't. No. That isn't what should happen. What should happen is, teenagers should be given the tools to have enough self esteem that, when some anonymous person online goes 'God, just kill yourself'*, their only response is 'um, no? Weirdo' and let that be the end of it. If I'm honest, I don't even understand how cyberbullying even exists (if one doesn't know the bullies IRL, that is), because it's kind of the one kind of bullying that you CAN walk away from- delete your account, change your email, just step aside. It's really as simple as that.

I mean, you can kind of take my thoughts on it with a pinch of salt because I'm sooort of unbulliable (I've never cared that much about others' opinions of me. Like, I like people to like me, but if they don't I'm like 'whatever dude, your choice', so bullying isn't really an option) but I really just don't like the blame that's put on the internet because guys! I love the internet! It's brought me all of you and that makes me so happy, and OVERWHELMINGLY my experience of being online has been so positive, and I won't have nobody talking shit about it. Essentially, it is what you make of it- you can sit there and take some anonymous abuse, or you can move away from it, go to friendlier online communities or maybe even start your own. Because you are better than any shit someone who doesn't even have a face can say to you, and I just wish that this girl had known that.

Oh, and also? Hey anonymous internet assholes,
Thoughts and feelings, guys?

*By the way, is this how teenagers are talking to each other nowadays? Because WHAT, that is clearly not OK.


  1. I feel the same! Although I think it is ridiculously hard to magically give someone enough self esteem that they can just let those kinds of things not bother them. Especially teenagers! I'm still bothered too much about what other people think of me (although I try not to be, it's hard, dammit!), but as a teenager I was a million times worse, and I honestly don't know what I would have done had that kind of thing happened to me. Especially seeing as the internet was something I used when I was 15 or so to find people that I actually had stuff in common with.

    What would really help though, especially for girls, is if everyone wasn't bombarded with things implying that it's SUPER IMPORTANT to be beautiful and anybody who isn't is some kind of failure. If we could just get the media to stop obsessing about that kind of thing all of the time, I'm sure it would help! (I realise that this isn't going to happen, sigh!)

    If I have children I am going to be kind of terrified to let them use the internet though. People just shouldn't be allowed to be online unless they've passed some kind of test to show that they're decent human beings first!

    1. Oh yeah, I have a really hard time with knowing how to like transmit good self-esteem rays even to people I know! I think it just has a lot to do with liking yourself and feeling really comfortable with yourself and putting that ahead of all other things so that you know that, whatever anyone says about you, you don't have to believe it, you know?

      AGREE SO HARD about the girls/beauty thing though. I've actually had a blog post in my brain on this exact topic for such a long time- well, not exactly this, but more like there's this ridiculous situation where, if you're beautiful (in the socially agreed upon sense) then nobody expects anything from you because, you know, you're just a pretty face, and if you're non-beautiful (and my exact example here is Susan Boyle, just fyi) then ALSO nothing is expected of you because only attractive people are successful. It's like a ridiculous paradox of ridiculousness, and my argument is, why even play up to that? Just ignore it alllllllll.

      Yeah, I don't even know what I would do if I had kids. I guess... supervision? But can you really do that with teens? And isn't it just more important as a parent to focus on like, telling them they're the most awesome human being ever and letting that guide them the right way? I JUST DON'T KNOW!

    2. Yeah! It is difficult though... The problem with teenagers as well is that they're not exactly going to listen to many (if any) older people, even if they completely understand what the teenager is going through!

      Yeah, the beauty paradox. It doesn't really make sense, but there it is. It definitely makes life kind of easier (um, in some ways) to just be average looking. Average, yayyy!

      Yeah, I don't think it's possible to supervise teenagers all of the time.. I had a shared computer growing up, so didn't really have loads of time to be on the internet by myself until I got to uni (and by that time I had wayyy more self esteem than I did during high school), but computers are so useful and stuff that I would want my children to have one of their own (um, if we can afford it, obviously!). Hmm. Oh well, any potential children that I have aren't going to be teenagers for a while, and by that time I expect everything will have changed! Hopefully for the better..

  2. Maaaaaybe it's a bit like me with that horrible bookshop review thing online? Like, once you know the abuse is there, you almost can't NOT LOOK? I still don't think the website should be shut down, that's just silly - but I can sort of see that it can be hard to extract yourself once that shit's out there. It's a bit compulsive, really. I guess sometimes there's also the worry that these people CAN find out enough about you to work out where you live or go to school, and maybe it gets to be not quite as anonymous and suddenly feels more dangerous? I don't know...

    Poor sod. I just hate that a 14 year-old girl can be made that sad by people on the internet. Trolls are fucking VICIOUS and it won't be the last time it happens. :(

    1. I guess there probably might have been an element of, like, 'oh shit, what have they been saying about me today?' although my argument is still, you know, JUST STAY AWAY you are better than that, you know? Although I'm sure it's not as easy as that, it kind of is that simple. I still say that there MUST have been other factors involved though, cause a happy person does not see anonymous people going 'kill yourself' and go 'oh, ok then.'

      But yeah, there's still no denying that it's horrible and tragic and horrible and OMFG what sort of person do you have to be to do that?

    2. Oh yeah, there are definitely other factors involved too, like colossal self esteem issues. I don't think there's ever a single factor for a suicide, ever. I guess when you're 14 things are already all messed up hormone-wise and it's probably harder to be sensible and not be scared to death when something like this happens. Sometimes you see these trolls around blogs and YouTube videos and stuff and you just think, "jeeeez, there really are people out there who spout this stuff, whether for lolz or not." It's scary really.

      Didn't Amanda Palmer write about this stuff a while back when another girl killed herself? The girl who made the video where she held up the cards like the guy in Love Actually with her whole story on them, and then she died pretty much right after? The internets need to rise up and squish people who go after youngsters like that. :'(

    3. Oh yeah, hormones. *shudders* I just cannot understand the mindset of these people AT ALL which is probably because I'm a good person, but I just... WHY would you want to be such a dick all the time?!

      Amanda Palmer did indeed write about it, and I watched that video and died it was so bad. That was a lot more of a her knowing the people and them getting her to take naked photos of herself and then blackmailing her with them and stuff. I mean, it's different but it's kind of the same and it's all so horrible.

  3. So sad, and that's putting it very lightly. I'm always so conflicted when this sort of thing happens. I move back and forth from THOSE TROLLING ASSHOLES MADE HER DO IT to WHERE THE HELL WERE HER PARENTS?

    Bullies are the freaking worst. My youngest daughter had a bullying problem in elementary school. It got so bad that I decided to homeschool her. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE. She has had an opposite internet story. Now, she makes connections with kids that are similar to her. Online.

    I'm babbling. I'll stop.

    1. See, yeah, that's one thing about this I don't get- I'm assuming that her parents didn't really know about it, otherwise they would have been like, 'dude, just get off the website and don't worry about it and we love you' and all those other good things. Really I haven't been paying huge amounts of attention to the story because it pisses me off that the paper's on this weird crusade to get the whole website shut down rather than admitting that other things might have been involved.

      And, aw, I'm really sorry about your daughter, but NICE PARENTING WORK getting her out of the situation! And that is totally what the internet has become for me- a virtual playground where I can make friends from alllll over :)

  4. I totally agree with you. It's sad that that 14-year old girl felt the need to kill herself... but it's not the website's fault. She obviously had serious other issues that her parents failed to see in time. I cannot imagine an intelligent, mentally-sound person being told by anonymous people online to kill herself and that person thinking "Hey, yeah, I'll do that!" So she probably wasn't in a good state of mind when she started using this site, and I'm guessing that constant barrage of "go kill yourself" went on for at least a couple days... and no one noticed how depressed she was? She was only 14, why was no one paying more attention to this girl?

    That being said... I really do wish that websites monitored comments and stuff more. If being an "anonymous" user wasn't an option, trolling wouldn't happen as much. And I wish they were more diligent about deleting the accounts of people who post bullying, racist, sexist, etc types of comments. But you know, I'm not going to be angry at the sites about it. I think those crappy people online need to find a new hobby. This is why I try to abide by the "never read the comments" rule of most articles online now, the horrible stuff that people say is just disgusts me.

    1. YESSSSSSSS. I absolutely agree that there must have been other issues involved, definitely, and I just can't keep reading the same thing over and over again, like that the site owners should be ashamed etc etc. It's just... No. I mean, I don't even want to get all 'why was no one paying more attention to her?' about it because her parents are going to be thinking that their whole lives, unless they just keep blaming this website and not even looking at what they could have done. Which actually might be a thing they're doing just to help deal with their grief, in which case... Oh. That's really sad.

      I really really do quite strongly think that being an anonymous user shouldn't really be an option. People are much less willing to be assholes when they have to put their name behind it, so hey! Make them put their name behind it! But yeah, that's a thing- just because people are terrible in the comments (which they almost always are on any big site) doesn't make the thing they were commenting on any less worthy of attention. And yeah, anytime I read the comments of anything now, I always, always regret it. Instagram is the WORST.

    2. Wait, are Instagram comments really bad? The only asshole-y one I see are usually whenever The Onion posts something and people say jerky things...

    3. Oh my goooood, the instagram comments are SO bad! Like, they're RIDICULOUS. I've even seen people try to be nice but ending up being horrible, e.g. these two sisters run this blog together and one of the sisters posted a photo of herself (as you do) and one of the comments was 'you're so much prettier than your sister' and I'm just like KEEP YOUR DAMN THOUGHTS IN YOUR DAMN HEAD FFS!

  5. "Because you are better than any shit someone who doesn't even have a face can say to you" That sentence (part of sentence? I am too lazy to scroll back up and find out...) is PERFECTION! It should definitely be the slogan for an anti-cyberbullying campaign!

    I agree so much with what you've written that I feel as though I could have written it myself! I've stopped reading much coverage of the tragedy because I was starting to feel bad about how angry I was getting with it all. A poor girl has felt that she had no option but to kill herself and rather than looking for a sustainable solution to young people's perceptions of themselves and how they respond to situations, the media is continuing to rant about that one website. Miss the issue much?

    And also, I feel sad that she felt that she had to keep looking at it. "Just look away" should be the new "Just say no"! Websites don't need closing, you just need to be in charge of making sure that young people learn to not look at or respond to nastiness online. Because the internet can be GREAT and can give you a whole host of friends that love the exact same things you do and give you somewhere to And that? That is the best! :)

    1. Yesssssssss to that thing that the media did! I mean, not that the website isn't a problem AT ALL, but it hardly seems like the major factor here. Actually, now I'm extra annoyed because they could have been doing something really special here instead of just being like 'RARGH RARGH BAD INTERNET RARGH.'

      I think we should all get t-shirts with 'Just Look Away!' on them because there is so much shit out there that NO ONE needs to see (my personal favourite anger-making thing is anti-feminist websites like 'Ladies Against Feminism' because AAAARGH NO I CAN'T) aaaaand I've stumbled off topic. Of course. But anyway, yes. Internet friends are awesome and it shouldn't be like 'no you can't use the internet cause it's dangerous' because HOW WOULD I HAVE MET YOU PEOPLE otherwise?! Exactly.

  6. First I hope your Nan is doing better.

    Next I am torn on the whole website thing. Cos OK, first I don't think the website should be shut down nor do I think what happened is the website's fault.

    On the one hand, I think the website should be held in someway responsible for the actions of their users. Not entirely and you can't bring charges against a site for what their users did, but consider the case with Twitter where they made updates to their system to let you report abusive Tweets after too many bullying incidents. This doesn't mean Twitter is responsible for people being assholes online, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't step forward and do what they can to keep things civil in their space without impeding their users who aren't raging assholes.

    Then of course there's the part that you said where teens need to be given the tools to deal with online tormenting. But I can't imagine that online tormenting was the only thing that caused her to take her life. According to one of the news reports there was evidence that the people leaving anonymous messages knew her in real life. There's record of online bullying but that doesn't mean that's the only place it was happening.

    1. Thank youuuu! In a stunning plot twist of suckiness, she's actually in the hospital at the moment waiting for them to reset her wrist under anaesthetic tomorrow because they did it wrong last week *BIGGEST SIGH IN THE WORLD*.

      Yeahhhh, I definitely don't know enough about it to dispute that she knew them in real life, but all the things I've read say that they were anonymous and that's why they're having trouble like finding out who they are (my understanding is that they would arrest them otherwise?) But yeah, if it was happening in real life then that's definitely harder to walk away from.

      Also agreeeee that websites should have some sort of system in place to stop the abusive messages coming through. I mean, I don't know anything about but I assume you can't block people otherwise you would? Although I think I did read that there's the option to not allow anonymous people to talk to you, so... Yeah, I don't know. But anyway. It's all horrible and :(