OPINION: When did it get ok to start hating everything and to publicly convey your negative opinions in a demeaning, hurtful manner? When did society become so blatantly angry? When did the trolls take over?
I recently read an eye-opening article from Time magazine written by Joel Stein and titled ‘Tyranny Of The Mob’. In the piece, Joel dives into the ways people use (and misuse) the Internet to be hurtful towards other people. I may be naïve at some level, or at least overwhelmingly idealistic, but I was shocked to hear that 70% of 18-24-year-olds have been harassed online and 26% of women had been stalked online.
The fact is we’ve created a culture where it’s okay for anonymous users to point fingers and call out others in a negative, derogatory way, purposefully hurting others solely for a laugh or page views. I know we live in a world where the media revels in extremes in order to generate revenue, but this seems to take that extremist, alarmist point of view to a new level, which is unnecessary, and frankly unacceptable. I was raised with the old adages that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Treat others like you would want to be treated. Do unto others… etc. My tactic has always been to treat others with respect unless they go out of their way to no longer deserve it, and even then you should just take the high road, keep your mouth shut and move on.
Trolls are cowards. They hide in the shadows under anonymous names and hurl barbs that hurt more than any stick or stone ever has. The accessibility of digital media and the rise of social networks has made it easier and easier to express your opinion, and while I value free speech, I think the spirit of the Constitution was that when you express yourself you take responsibility for your words and your actions. You don’t hide behind the veil of a digital curtain and aim to make people feel worse, accentuating every mistake and further fueling the fire of self-doubt and depression that far too many people live with on a daily basis.
We’re all self-conscious and we all want to be liked, and while we all should have self-confidence and a thick skin there are always situations and statements that can penetrate that protective coating, no matter how strong or seemingly impervious it may be. Think of this very column I write and have written for 17 years. I read the comments section and some people agree with me while others don’t. Some people think I’m smart while others think I’m an annoying idiot. My feelings have been hurt and people have made me feel angry, but I move on and I write again the following week. Sometimes I put myself out there a little more, like with this column, and sometimes it bites me in the butt.
My kids are young and they’re going to grow up in a world where this is the norm. Every mistake will become a permanent fixture in the record of their lives, broadcast for anyone and everyone to see. They will almost certainly be trolled at some point – the statistics say that’s the case. They will have to be propped up by us, as parents. Their confidence will be in doubt and we’ll try to help them through the hard times, but we have to keep a watchful eye on the digital world around them to make sure we try our very best to help them avoid or deal with those unseen harbingers of doom and gloom who only exist to hurt them.
Trolls are cowards. They hide in the shadows under anonymous names and hurl barbs that hurt more than any stick or stone ever has. The accessibility of digital media and the rise of social networks have made it easier and easier to express your opinion, and while I value free speech, I think the spirit of the Constitution was that when you express yourself you take responsibility for your words and your actions.
Maybe it’s time we find more ways to highlight some of the good? Maybe it’s time we found ways to accentuate the positive rather than sell the negative day in and day out? Maybe we can stop empowering the trolls to have any kind of impact by relegating them to the dark corners of the web where they belong? Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a backlash and the media will wake up one day to focus on the middle of the pack, where sanity presides and people know life doesn’t suck, even though some small things might.
We’re pretty lucky actually, to be alive in a world that offers so many opportunities. We’re lucky to have friends and people in our lives to support us. We’re lucky to work in an innovative area of the business that gets you excited and incentivises you to go to work every day. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s not luck! Maybe it’s our personal ambition mixed with some measure of confidence, however small, that can shield us from the negativity and drive us toward making things a little better within our immediate surroundings.
I don’t know – maybe I’m just one guy who read an article and it struck a chord. Maybe I just woke up this morning and I got tired of people hating things. Maybe I just want my sons to have a good life and maybe, just maybe, you want your family and friends to have the same. Next week I’ll go back to writing about media, marketing and advertising. This week – I just want people to smile and stop hating things, at least for a little while.
Cory Treffiletti is vice president of strategy for the Oracle Data Cloud, and is a founder, author, marketer and evangelist. This post was first published by MediaPost.com and is republished with the kind permission of the author.