Some people think the internet makes us bullet-proof. You can fire off any insult or thread and it won’t hurt anyone.
The sad truth is that we’re none of us bullet-proof. Not by a long shot.
Bullying isn’t a big problem in blogging. It sometimes feels like a big problem but that’s because bullies shout a bit louder than the rest of us. Nevertheless, it’s a real problem.
When a powerful, popular blogger calls someone a ‘twat’ on Twitter for expressing an opinion on their post; when they take time to send someone an email telling them to get a life and get some therapy; when their friends reply to those abusive Tweets with a LOL or a snigger, it’s bullying, pure and simple.
And it’s not okay. I don’t much care if you’re angry or upset or you feel somehow you’re entitled to have your say.
As adults, we’re responsible for how our words and actions might be received, in the virtual and the physical world. By all means be critical, passionate and even angry. Let’s never make the mistake of thinking disagreement and debate are dirty words. But let’s always remember that the moment heated debate becomes personal abuse, we’ve crossed a line.
When you’re a target of this kind of bullying it’s almost impossible to ignore. But what you have to try and remember (and believe me, I know it’s not easy) is that it’s never about you. It’s all about them. Nobody successful, happy or strong-minded takes time out of their day to do the virtual equivalent of running up to a stranger in the street and spitting in their face.
These are people with issues. After all, they could easily un-follow you, or not read your blog. But something inside compels them to keep reading, to keep looking for reasons to be upset enough to call you names, to post hateful comments in public, or to send heartless emails in private.
I don’t want to care about this. I consider it a personal weakness that I’ve had entire days, sometimes weeks ruined by someone’s heartless words on the Internet. But like I said, we’re none of us bullet-proof.
There will be people reading this post right now rolling their eyes. They’re probably about to send a snarky Tweet about me to one of their friends.
Before you click send, though, just take a moment to ask yourself why you’re online now. Why you love the Internet. I would bet that it’s something to do with the Internet’s ability to bring people together, to share ideas and make new connections. To write about your experiences and relive them through the eyes of your readers and their comments.
Why not focus on that, instead?