I’ve often considered cyber bullying to be a thing kids do. But recently I realized it goes on all the time, all over the Internet.
I think it’s because people forget there are real human beings on the other end of the words, and they are also stuck in their own viewpoint.
What brought this to mind was a documentary I recently watched on the Cecil Hotel. The episode was on Elisa Lam, the girl who drowned in the water tank on the roof. The case had sparked wide interest on the internet, where so-called sleuths, working on partial information, put 2 and 2 together and got 7.
One of the things they got wrong was about a musician. He had visited the Cecil Hotel and had a music video that showed a blonde girl being chased through the woods. To the people who found it, it didn’t matter that the video was done much before Lam’s disappearance. It didn’t matter that the musician wasn’t in the hotel at the time of Lam’s disappearance (his visit was the year before and he was actually in another country in a recording studio). All that mattered is that his art didn’t sit well with the sleuths, and they began to accuse him of Lam’s murder. It ruined his life and he attempted suicide. When interviewed for the documentary, he said, “No one ever apologized.”
Words matter. Every word we utter has the potential for harm, and we need to be cognizant of that. We can’t just spout off whatever we want and claim 2nd amendment when there are negative consequences. The 2nd amendment talks about laws being made; it’s not a shield for people to hide behind when things happen as the result of their words.
Just as words matter, platform matters more. It’s different to say something snarky to your spouse than it is to publish it on social media. It’s different to support a cause in private than it is to give it your public approval – especially if you are a person whose opinion matters to a lot of people.
If we want the ability to have free speech, we have to have the maturity to accept the responsibility for the consequences. Period. Even when those consequences are not what we foresaw.
It’s called maturity. And sadly, I think that many people who use the internet to spew their hurtful words are lacking in that.
And immaturity goes right along with bullying. Maturity goes along with respect.
Photo by www.ilmicrofono.it