The internet could be regarded as humanity’s greatest achievement, bringing together billions of people around the world to share dreams, thoughts, opinions, ideas, and insight instantaneously. The amount of knowledge available online is immeasurable.
A free global information sharing system that allows users to learn about anything within seconds should mark the end of illiteracy and ignorance for humanity. However, like all things, human nature has a way of turning something beautiful into a destructive weapon.
Online harassment is a serious problem. Social media is evolving, allowing everyone greater access to virtually anyone. Unfortunately, this evolution also creates more opportunities for angry people to infect others with their toxic words.
Vile things that used only to be said in places like bars and private living rooms are now expressed freely in open forums for the world to see.
Comment sections have become battlegrounds. Locations people vent their darkest most evil thoughts. Worse, online users can express this toxic communication in almost total anonymity, with virtually no repercussions.
Just Not Sports uploaded a video of a social experiment in which real men volunteered to sit across from two female sports journalists, Julie Dicaro and Sarah Spain, to read some of the toxic comments they receive on a daily basis. Both women read the comments in advance. However, the men were reading them for the first time.
The awkward tension and discomfort radiates throughout the video as these men struggle to say even some of the comments out loud or look either woman in the eye. First, here’s the video.
The video starts out with a few somewhat humorous unfavorable opinions that focused more on the talent of each journalist. It’s worth noting that one of those “less offensive” comments was a very subtle passive-aggressive sexist swipe at Spain that read:
Sarah Spain sounds like a nagging wife on TV today.
Spain seemed to take the criticism with good humor, replying:
Not even married yet,” before giving a funny “yeesh” facial expression.
Unfortunately for both the journalists and the volunteers, the comments took a much more dark and ugly turn. The men sat and squirmed in agonizing discomfort as they read comments that the women as “c*nts” reduced them to sexual objects. One comment read:
This is why we don’t hire any females unless we need our cocks sucked or our food cooked
Some of the more vile comments involved sexual assault, with online posters either expressing a wish to rape the women or that they are raped.
The term “cyberbullying” describes, “bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.”
Cyberbullying has profound effects children and young adults.
Youth who are bullied have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Symptoms may include:
- increased feelings of sadness and loneliness
- changes in sleep and eating patterns
- loss of interest in activities
- more health complaints
Youth who are bullied are more likely to struggle personally and at school. They may:
- miss, skip or drop out of school
- receive poor grades
- have lower self-esteem
- use alcohol and drugs
Bullying can lead to thoughts about suicide, sometimes persisting into adulthood. In one study, adults who were bullied as youth were three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
However, cyberbullying can also have the same effects on individual adults as well.
In the video, you can see the pained expressions on the face of Dicaro and Spain as the volunteers read some of the vile comments about them. While both women are professionals who had to grow “tough skin,” they are also still very human. They most certainly have the same tiny voice of self-doubt and insecurity we all have.
During one of the most contentious political seasons in recent memory, it’s easy to get caught up in rhetoric and say things that we would not usually tell to complete strangers; let alone family and friends. But let’s remember not to “feed the troll” either online or within ourselves.
Be kind to each other.
Featured image via video screenshot