Flippancy is my middle name so I’ll begin with a photo my son sent me:
This funny pic got me thinking about blocking and being blocked. I thought about a recent experience on Twitter, where someone I follow – a strong, intelligent, articulate woman who happens to be a feminist – was being trolled. She blocked the perpetrator but others – anonymous or using fake gravatars – popped up and joined in the trashing of this woman…not just her views, but her appearance, her sexuality. This led me to think about rudeness, ugly rudeness. My grandmother used to say: “Manners cost nothing” and called people “ill-mannered” but that phrase doesn’t really cover the viciousness of an online troll. A troll used to be a hairy monster who lived under the billy-goats’ bridge. Now it’s a not-so-hairy monster who lives on the internet…
This woman’s trolling reminded me of when Poppet was bullied in Year 9. She was fourteen and had just dumped (her first) boyfriend. It was amicable, they were still friends, yet this didn’t stop some of his friends from posting revolting things on Facebook. There were anonymous bullies on Formspring (a site active two years ago), but somehow the Facebook ones were worse because they had names and therefore profiles…faces. They were real. Poppet didn’t tell me about this bullying at first. Like many teenagers, she internalised it, blamed herself. After all, she’d dumped a very popular boy, a boy with loyal, vocal friends. I can’t repeat what was said – it’s too graphic to type here, but think of one of the worse things you could say to a young girl, think sexual, and you’ll be close to the truth.
I found out accidentally, glancing over her shoulder one day, eyes zeroing in on her screen, so appalled I wanted to seek out this boy and tell him off; ring the school; ring the police; ring his mother.
But world weary Poppet, just fourteen and already apprised of the online world and its dark corners, said: “Don’t! It will get worse.”
“What’s worse than that?” I shrieked.
She blocked him – this ill-mannered but quite normal boy. Interestingly, he’s apologised to Poppet recently. Two years older, now at the same school and lately acquiring some manners, he told her he was sorry that he “…said some stuff. I was a total d**k.”
But I’m not sure if an apology, even a sincere one, can really appease the victim (or her mother). An apology shows character – not many people can apologise, least of all a teenage boy – but an apology can’t negate the immediate and ongoing effect of those brutal words on a fourteen year old girl (and her mother).
Before this post becomes not nearly flippant
e nough too grim, I’ll mention my own experience on Facebook. I freely admit I’m eccentric weird with social media. I pick and choose. I don’t have Facebook – nothing against it, I just find I must limit social media, as it is a heady drug that keeps me from the offline world, the real world. But I did once have a Facebook account, which I opened on the advice of EVERYONE. And in the three hours my account was alive, I’d acquired quite a few ‘friends’. People popped out of the woodwork from all over the place and my head spun with giddiness. I was so popular! But I was suddenly privy to an array of family snaps from people I barely knew; news and status updates from relative strangers filled my feed. This I could deal with, but then suddenly I gazed with stunned horror at my own face – tagged in a photo that week when out to lunch – grinning with Cheshire Cat brilliance (that photo would not have survived my delete button!) Traumatised reflecting quietly on my new public life, I closed said account and spent the next twenty four hours fielding offended ex-friends and contacts, apologising profusely to them. They’d all thought I’d blocked and defriended them…as if? A sense of the ridiculous is mandatory with social media, I feel. 🙂
According to my in-house online expert, Poppet, Facebook is practically obsolete, at least for teenagers: People only use it for invites and arrangements now, no one posts statuses anymore… *insert eye-roll*…it’s all Instagram and Snapchat!
The online world is a diverting place. Poppet sent me this:
What are your own experiences with being blocked, defriended or unfollowed? Or is your world full of ‘sweetness and light’? 🙂
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.