I’m sure you’re all familiar with the phrase “Haters Gonna Hate”, but when do “haters” cross the line? Haters come in many varieties, most famously those who are jealous of the success of a celebrity or other well-known figure. The Internet troller, a kind of hater, likes to constantly post inappropriate or nasty comments in order to start an argument. Just because you post your strong opinions about politics, religion or stereotypes (sex, race, etc.) doesn’t make you a troll, of course. The great thing about the Internet is freedom of speech. If there’s an article online you don’t agree with, you’re free to post about it on Facebook, in a closed environment with your friends (as opposed to an online chatroom or forum). It’s a great way to get your voice heard and have your friends engage in a potentially intellectual discourse about important world issues.
“Social network sites reconfigured people’s engagement with online communities because they signaled a shift from interest-driven to friendship-driven spaces. Rather than going to an online community to meet others who were interested in a particular topic or hobby, people primarily turned to social network sites like Facebook to publicly engage with people they already knew (Ellison et al, 2007, 2011a).” (Ellison & Boyd 161).
The problem of sharing your opinion online emerges when people start posting irrational, violent responses or comments. It bothers me to no end when people say things like “go kill yourself” or “you don’t deserve to live” because they have an opinion that differs from than their own.
If done repeatedly, this can enter the dangerous realm of cyber bullying. Just because someone is “safe” behind a computer screen does not mean they should attack others verbally/virtually.
“Participants in an online forum may be anonymous… or they may be named, their real names and identity known and verified. Anonymous communication allows people to talk freely about topics that they might otherwise be afraid to discuss, such as personal health issues or political criticism. Yet anonymity also allows disruptive and anti-social behavior to flourish.” (Donath 4)
Facebook is not anonymous, but it’s limited to your friend list (if you know how to work privacy settings). This may seem like an excuse to be brutally honest or even rude. Hey, if your “friends” don’t like what you’re saying, there is a delete button and they can use it. I understand that. But do people understand the implications of suggesting that another should commit suicide over a specific viewpoint they have? I understand that it’s a “joke” but to me it’s not funny. I hope it’s safe to say that most people will simply brush the comment off to the side or ignore it. But there are some young people who will be personally offended and could harm themselves in response. Words matter. Don’t be an insensitive human being. Think before you type.
Scrolling down my news feed on Facebook, I happen to see this prime example:
I clicked the link and read through the list of 50 Ways To Be The Perfect College Girlfriend. From the picture and the site, totalfratmove.com, I guessed that this was partly a joke, not to be taken too seriously, but also holding some socially acceptable viewpoints. Yes, it’s chauvinistic and utterly ridiculous at times (I admit I scowled at some numbers and laughed at others). If this Facebook friend of mine, however, would have actually read the bio of the writer of the article I feel like there wouldn’t have been such a passionate reaction. The guy basically says he wants people to get angry by his posts and send in hate mail. He is an Internet troll. My Facebook friend is arguably a hater crossing the line.
My Facebook friend is simply feeding the writer’s ego. Is he spreading gender inequality and perpetuating the stereotype of the submissive, hypersexualized woman and the dominant, “manly” man? Yes, yes he is. Does he deserve to die by slow death of a stapler or be violently castrated? I don’t think so. Not to mention there is an almost identical article about being the perfect college boyfriend, written by a woman on the same site. So should this woman be castrated as well? Does she deserve death of all feminine pleasure or even of herself as a whole? Again, no. The joke isn’t cute or funny.
Stop saying “Go kill yourself”. It’s immature and actually a terrible insult that should be wiped out of our cliché vocabulary. Next time you don’t like what someone is saying, just respond with: “Hey, I think you’re wrong and should reevaluate your opinions. Here’s why…”. That, my friend, is rational and shows your mind works in ways beyond the immature, schoolyard insult.