My twitter timeline has been talking about Dr Julia Baird’s excellent piece "Twitter opens a new world of abuse aimed at women" and I am not going to take issue with the sentiment behind what Dr Baird has written, though I would like to raise a few questions. Dr Baird's piece has restarted a debate in regard to Twitter ‘nastiness’, ‘Trolls’, ‘Anonymous Handles’, and of course abuse hurled at women who have the gall to not know their place, i.e. barefoot & pregnant in the kitchen *serious sarcasm here obviously*.
I have written a piece called “Why is Twitter always the bad guy?” elsewhere to question a lot of the above issues mentioned in regard to social media, so in this Thinkyness post I am not ignoring all those other issues, I am just more interested in the responses I am seen on Twitter today and the issues those responses raise. I am wondering if all the hand-wringing about how to shut down online Trolls is missing an important issue as to what we can actually learn from these Trolls? I know that statement sounds silly, but #Thinkyness is supposed to be about having a conversation & working through ideas, not so much yelling statements at people, so here I go ;-)
Now I despise the nastiness that Dr Baird raised in her piece today, no two ways about that. I fall pretty much into the “If you could not do or say that in real life, then report to relevant authority” sort of column. It seems to me from scanning my Twitter time line every now and then today the over-whelming response has been either:
- Discussion on how awful women get treated on the Internet, which I am not going to get into, or
- How to handle Trolls.
I really didn’t see a lot of discussion on Why do Trolls behave this way, or Why do so many believe they need to attack women, etc? I really think that just shutting down a conversation, banning a Troll (though I am all for that) or going the ‘just ignore them’ route is missing an opportunity to understand “WHERE” these people are coming from and more importantly “WHY”?
I know Dr Baird has inferred that Twitter has given these abusers a ‘voice’, though, in my experience, these people are around in real life as well. It's just often in real life they are just hidden or skulking in little like minded groups where they can’t attract the wrath of the general public as their venom would not be tolerated.
I am not so sure we have more abusers and intolerance being displayed because of the likes of Twitter. I am thinking that maybe we are actually just ‘seeing’ it in more numbers now because these people are not hiding under their rocks.
In all forms of life you have to see, admit & analyse a problem, before you can solve it?
Maybe that is what we should be doing in these cases. Maybe Twitter (and other social media) is giving us an opportunity to ‘See’ we have a bigger problem than political correctness allows. ‘Acknowledge’ that there are an awful lot of sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, racist etc. people out there in this nation. Then we can start looking at why.
In the case of Dr Baird’s piece:
- Why are so many men (and some cases women) threatened by strong women?
- Why do so many people feel the need to hit a woman with a ‘low’ blow like the “died in shame” call?
- Why does much of the abuse seem to have threatening rape as the fall back position?
- Why is it necessary for someone to randomly look at someone’s profile and randomly jump into a conversation to say something extremely hurtful?
- Why do people taking part in online abuse think threatening violence is an acceptable?
Yes, I agree that we should always advise Twitter of abuse, and I agree that mocking can often work to get a particularly nasty person off your back, but I am not so sure that just ignoring & banning these people should be the end of it. The way these people ‘think’ is still there, we are just not seeing it anymore. The online world may not be responsible for the way these people think, but as police know, it allows like-minded grubs to find each other and have more strength in numbers that they would not normally come across in the real world. My worry is this will only increase as time goes by.
I wonder if maybe we should be pushing for more action when they are serious threats. Not the “OMG you said I am wrong, you’re a Troll” ones or my favourites, not, ‘professional victims’ who are really just looking for publicity and more visitor stats on their website to charge advertisers. I am talking about the sort of threats that were they in your face would have you dialling 000 fearing for your safety, or alternatively, having you curling up in a corner needing some help to deal with the mental anguish.
I am not even sure what area of Government, University research, IT research, this would even come under, no idea. But perhaps we should invest money in getting statistics off both Social Media forums, and provide that data to Police and other relevant bodies so that smart people can correlate data, see anomalies or patterns in the abuse to actually advise Government & Schools on education, mental health, legal areas etc., where these overlap to improve the nation to help rid it of this discrimination. (Yes, I know that may be difficult with this current Government as it does not seem to be a fan of the Scienz.... a girl can dream)
Hand wringing about how awful a segment of society is won’t make it magically go away. I fail to see how closing our eyes and shutting these people off will make them go away. It won’t, they are still there under their rocks, infecting their neighbours, friends and worse of all, their kids with their insidious ways. I have no idea what the answer is. What I do know is that I would like to do something about it. Do we really want to live in a future where we all become rather blasé accepting behaviour that holds back too many segments of our society?
All I do know is that I don’t want to ignore or fight these people. I do however want to understand why they feel the need to discriminate, abuse or threaten. What are the underlying causes of this behaviour? Obviously ‘just ignore’ is not an answer that will fix a serious issue in our society?
If we take heed of the shut down / ban calls are we maybe missing the opportunity to learn & improve our society. There has to be reasons why so many seem to be a few steps further down the evolutionary ladder than that rest of us. Ideas anyone?
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Thinkyness came about from the charming @Perorationer who often tweets Jan & Noely in the morning with a random article he has found that would make you think, could be anything from Women in the 1800's to a potential world wide wine shortage which we would then discuss, obviously this led on to us tweeting each other #Thinkyness articles [...] more
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