Only the start of the week and already we have had more issues with Twitter. The latest concerns the NSW government seeking to crack down after rugby league player Robbie Farah received offensive remarks after the death of his mother. Then our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father passed away and she received much support from her followers, but there was at least one person who made an insensitive dig.
Is more censorship and taking legal action really the way to go? Are we over-reacting? I often talk about the need for us to get some resilience and start to teach our children (and ourselves) how to walk away and ignore and/or block those who seek to upset and gain notoriety through insensive, rude and disrespectful comments on twitter, facebook and blogs.
On one hand many celebrities, sports people and others use social media as a means to get their messages out there and in some ways to circumvent the media, yet when it doesn’t play out the way they want there is an outcry. We already have laws which cover hate speech (inciting hatred towards a specific person or group, usually involving race or ethnicity), we have communication laws preventing harassment or threats (if a person receives a genuine threat then they should go immediately to the police) and in Victoria we also have Brodie’s law. Brodie’s law makes serious cyberbullying and bullying an offence which can attract sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment. So how much further do we need to go?
As much as many of these comments are offensive and shock us, do we really need to give them more power by giving them so much publicity? Here we have the worst messages being picked up by the media and highlighted. Not everyone who makes a derogatory, rude or insensitive remark is a troll, not every troll is out to hurt, but what they all love is the extra exposure and the promotion of their messages. Why don’t we just refuse to give them any more publicity? We have to stop rewarding the poor behaviour by giving them publicity – don’t we?
We can use social media for good just as much as we can use it badly, but the existing laws already protect us. We must not encroach on our ability for free speech and to be allowed to have an opinion, but we do need to demand that opinions be given respectfully and without vitriol.
Let’s be sensible, just for a minute. How many times a day do we think that someone, somewhere in the world has made a nasty comment about someone? A joke in poor taste or bagged out a celebrity or politician? I’ve heard animal activists threaten pretty nasty things to other humans, I’ve heard or read some pretty full on “punishments” suggested by various sectors in our community just because they have strong views about whatever subject happens to be their passion. In fact I would guess that such remarks occurs many times a day, somewhere in the world. Do we care about those? Not particularly. If we dont physically hear it, we don’t care about it. Because social media is a public forum it is this fact that seems to really get people upset. Again, when social media promotes us in a positive way we are all joyful about it, but cop a criticism and suddenly we need new laws to control it! We really are being way too thin skinned about the whole thing. It’s like teasing – it’s part of how we learn and develop resilience, it’s when it goes past harmless face pulling to bullying when it becomes a problem.
My own passion is very much centred on making the online world a more respectful place, but I also have respect for the myriad of opinions and views which exist in this diverse world of ours. I certainly don’t agree with many of them, but if I want to have a say then I will add a comment or write a blog, knowing full well that by making my opinions known, I am opening up possible dialogue not just with those who may agree with me, but with those who don’t. This I welcome (provided it is respectful) because then I learn more and my understanding develops.
When it comes to people writing nasty or rude things which are not actually bullying (such as speaking ill of a deceased person) then really we just have to say to ourselves, what a #^&head, delete the comment and move on – thumb our noses at the fools who can’t make logical arguement. We can’t tell humanity that it can only be seen and not heard, but we can choose how we respond. Call’s for more laws to me represent a lack of understanding about the media and a very superficial way of dealing with the issues. Let’s keep the conversation going and just demand respect – that’s the non negotiable part.
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.