Sunday, 14 February 2016

How To Be A Nicer Person On The Internet

The internet. Probably the greatest invention of the modern age. It has allowed us to connect with people all over the world, created countless career opportunities for so many different people and it has given us the joys of social media, something which us bloggers absolutely rely upon. However, with the highs come the lows and when it comes to the internet, the lows can be low. As soon as people get behind the shield which is a keyboard, all levels of compassion and humanity seem to disappear and it only seems to be getting worse. I've already written about why I hate the like and share culture on Facebook and today's post is all about what I wish people would do and think of whilst they're on the internet.

I think the first thing that people ought to bear in mind before they write anything online is that the people who read these comments are, believe it or not, real people. A lot of trolls who are interviewed on the TV about why they write such disgusting things on social media seem to try and justify their actions by saying "it can't hurt people, it's the internet not real life." Guess what? You are wrong. Reading nasty comments online hurts just as much as a comment in real life and sometimes it can hurt even more. Imagine being that model on the Topshop Instagram page, reading the thousands of comments calling them all of the names under the sun from people who they hasn't even met. Try telling them that it's not real and the comments don't hurt. Imagine being the plus size, body confidence advocate who gets body shamed each time she uploads a photo in a bikini. These people and their feelings are completely real so trolls, stop trying to kid yourself that comments online are any different to comments in real life.

This brings me onto my next point for trolls. If it's not okay say it in real life, it's not okay to say it online. I get that people are more confident on the internet and that is absolutely fine but what is not fine is to use that online confidence to ruin someone else's reality. People would never walk up to someone who they disagreed with in real life and tell them to commit suicide or would never tell someone how many spots they had or how awful their make up looked. Nobody in their right mind would threaten to kill someone's family, or worse, because they had a differing opinion. This kind of behaviour would probably get you thrown in jail in real life so why has it suddenly become acceptable because these people are hiding behind a keyboard? As Megs from Wonderful You, put it "you don't get to ruin someone else's life just because you have a keyboard."

For me, one of the scary things about the internet is that there are people actively spreading hate and negativity without actually having the intention to do so. This happens primarily through Facebook and I'm sure you'll all know what I mean. Those "like and share if you agree" posts, spreading stories that are absolute bullshit, that gullible people who perhaps aren't experienced with the bullshit pages that post these stories, drink up like their morning coffee. Those posts that say "IF YOU LOOK LIKE THIS YOU AREN'T A REAL WOMAN" or those ridiculous Bill and Emily stick people that slyly shame and insult people who behave in a certain way. Before you press that share button, stop and really think about what you are sharing. Does it insult people who look or behave differently to you? Remember, you don't have to bring a certain group of people down to raise up another. You don't have to slate someone because they behave differently to you. 

I see so many hateful people on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, citing "expressing your opinion" or "freedom of speech" as justifications for their disgusting tweets and while freedom of speech is absolutely essential for a democratic society, If you have to say "I'm just being honest" or "I'm entitled to my own opinion" to justify something you're saying, you're probably being an obnoxious arsehole. Of course you're entitled to your own opinion and of course, honesty can be a great thing but freedom of speech does not entitle you to impose on the happiness or mental wellbeing of another person, simply because you want to "express your opinion". Society really benefits from the differing opinions of everyone (I mean, imagine how terribly boring life would be if we all thought the same) but there has to be a limit on this. Racism, homophobia, sexism and whatever else are just not okay in this day and age but sadly, social media acts as a platform for these views and it shows just how much farther we have to go in terms of equality. 

Another great thing about social media is that it's given us a whole new platform for debate. We now have the opportunities to call people out on things they say or to get our own views across, whether those are views about the latest make up release or politics. However, in recent years I think we've lost sight of what a "debate" is. It's not avidly searching for people you disagree with so that you can hurl abuse at them or tell them how stupid they are or correct their grammar. A debate is fighting your corner, trying to show why you believe what you do without the need to resort to petty name calling. Debates are great but they aren't the same as abuse. Early last year I posted a tweet about the infamous Ched Evans case and the abuse I was subjected to by people who disagreed with me was simply horrific. In between all of the death threats and insults were people who genuinely wanted to have a debate with me, both of us making points without the need to get nasty. That's what a debate is and it's healthy. So if you don't agree with a point someone has made, try and debate it instead of resorting to petty insults or grammar corrections. Debates can even be fun! 

Finally, we should all work harder on turning our negativity into positivity. I get that we aren't all going to get along, we aren't all going to have the same views and we aren't all going to like everything we see or read. However, instead of searching for the things that we don't like or don't agree with, how about we all make more of an effort to praise the things and the people we do like? I for one can't stand those Twitter accounts that have nothing but negativity and arguments - I'm sure some people only have Twitter so they can find people to disagree with. Imagine how much happier we would all be if we focused on what we do like rather than what we don't. Instead of commenting on someone's YouTube video telling them how rubbish their make up looks, scroll past and comment on a video that you do like. It's really not that difficult to do. Let's focus on building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I think really, the main thing we need to do is just start really thinking about what we are doing on the internet. The person at the other end of your comment is just as real as you are. Just because you don't see the hurt that a post causes doesn't make it any less real. If you are one of those trolls with an anon account, look at yourself and think why you are doing what you do because in reality, there are probably some serious self-confidence issues that lead to the build up of so much hatred.

What do you think? Do you agree? What would you say to your trolls?

Amy x
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