I’ve watched the flurry of Twitter traffic surrounding the abusive online comments made recently with some interest. The media coverage and even Twitter’s own apologies frequently made reference to the real world as somewhere that exists outside the social media bubble. It seems to me that in discussing or even beginning to understand the phenomenon of trolling, one needs to dismiss the idea of that bubble even existing.
A bully is a bully on any platform; from the blog forum to the schoolyard. Funny how they will often defend their position by suggesting that the person on the receiving end should ‘get a sense of humour’ as if it’s somehow the victim’s fault. I’m sure I’m not alone in having been a victim of schoolyard bullying and it’s no fun to be on the receiving end but it has taught me a thing or two. The latest incarnation may have the gloss of technology but it comes from the same dark corner of the human spirit. Comments are all too often directed at things the victim can’t change such as colour, ethnicity, sexuality or gender. Children are even bullied for being bright. The primary difference is that the schoolyard bully will attack when no one is watching whereas the online bully attacks where everyone is watching. And for me, that’s the key. As I’ve often said when training, ‘If you act like a prat on social media, you look like a prat on social media’. So, Kudos to all those who’ve spoken up about being bullied and to all those who simply retweet the offending message to their followers to illuminate the coward raising his fist behind the bike sheds. Kudos too to The Mail newspaper for naming the unnammed in an example of what investigative journalism should be doing. It isn’t really about new legislation or censorship because that won’t change people. If these people are dumb enough to broadcast their ignorance, let’s help them by spreading their sorry words to even pore people; people who can see them for what they really are – bullies. My late father taught me that you can’t expect to change other people, only the way you feel about those people. As soon as I realised that, that’s when the bullies started to lose their power and it changed my life for ever.