One morning this week, I woke up to find a comment on Facebook from a friend who works for Reddit, apologizing for being a “jerk magnet” on Twitter. It turns out that someone they banned was going around on Twitter, replying to everyone they had talked to, referring to them as a pedophile, and a protector of pedophiles, and just generally being an abusive dick. Strangely enough, this is not the first time I’ve seen a friend deal with this exact behavior. What’s lousy is, even when being reported for targeted, abusive behavior, using an account that was created solely for this purpose, Twitter ignored it.
Through the history of the internet, abusive behavior has kind of been a hallmark of the experience. It’s worse than being the new awkward kid on the playground of a new elementary school, located in rural Indiana in the 80’s, with about the same level of insults being thrown around, and instead of being pushed into the mud, the bullies put your personal information out for anyone to find. However, it’s gotten even worse, as of the last few years. I couldn’t tell you the reason why, though. Could it be the current political climate? The expansion of internet service into more rural areas? The foul mouthed kids from X-Box Live growing up, learning there are no consequences for the words they use online? Whatever the reason, hateful ignorance has started to grab hold of the internet. So, what can we do?
First, let me recognize something: I am not usually a target, so most of what I’m saying can fit under “Easier said, than done.” So, this is what I’ve been working on doing, with the reasoning behind it. Your mileage may vary. Certain terms and restrictions may apply. Please don’t hate on me for being ignorant, or oblivious, towards an issue, less you be the recipient of one of these measures.
So, with that being said, how can you or I help make the internet a little better place?
First, and most important, is to remember the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It seems simple, right? If you don’t want someone making a mockery of your love for Star Wars, then it’s probably best you don’t make fun of sporting events, or pumpkin spice. Now, I know this is a difficult one. I have been guilty of my share of “ignorance of sportsball” tweets, and being incredulous at people who think the world is going to end when a celebrity couple files for divorce, but we all need to strive to be better, and for harmless things like this? Just let people live.
Next, and this is especially difficult: Don’t even engage the idiocy. While many of us have been taught to “continue the conversation” when we put an idea out there, many people don’t want to have a conversation. They want to yell their opinion not just at you, but over you, until they drag you into an argument where, in their mind, they will be the winner, no matter what you do. Don’t fall for it. Blocking someone on Social Media for being a trolling jackwagon does not mean they have “won”, it means you’re not even giving them time for a contest. Remember: Never engage in a battle of wits against an unarmed opponent. Also remember, there is no need to stress yourself out, or raise your blood pressure, over some mentally imbalanced mouth breather who’s giggling over your frustration.
Another thing you can do is to be positive. Say nice things. Now, not every day is a day that begins with, “The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s a wonderful day to be alive! #blessed” on social media, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be something as simple as letting people know you appreciate them following your ramblings, or really taking a hard look at a “Everything is bad, I am bad, and I should feel bad,” tweet. Once again, this is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I mean, we are all only human. However, I’ve noticed that as I try to be more positive, my thinking turns more positive, and I just feel better. Would that work for you? Would it hurt to try?
This leads into another aspect: If someone is consistently being a bag of dicks in your timeline, it’s okay to stop following them. If it’s a “professional” connection? Well, first, they shouldn’t be a dick online, but if you’re not liking what you’re seeing? Mute them. You’ll still see when they are directing messages to you. Otherwise, if someone is just constantly putting things on your feed you don’t want to see, like a steady stream of vile political posts? It’s okay to stop showing their retweets, mute them, or even flat-out unfollow them, because it’s really hard to stay positive when everyone around you is spreading their filth all over your walls.
What it all boils down to, finally, is no matter what, try not to be a dick yourself. Don’t engage in the dickery. I know this is especially hard when you’re a member of a targeted group of people on the internet, which is why I know the mileage will vary on this. There is only so much you can take before you speak out, or sometimes even lash out. Once again, we’re human. It’s understandable. However, our time on this planet is limited, and information on the internet seemingly lasts forever, so how do you want to be remembered?
Myself, I’ve decided I don’t always want to be right. I want to be a better person.
I hope this makes sense, and I hope it might help someone.
Be excellent to each other, my friends.