Sexism, Racism and Bigotry Oh My!

PLEASE READ THIS DISCLAIMER FIRST

The following blog contains many offensive opinions from actual microblog posts. They haven’t bee altered by me in any way. I wanted to show them in their true form. While I’ve avoided ones using direct profanity they are spouting off opinions I do not support and certainly don’t condone. Please understand I included them for learning purposes only and my levity is only to make a blog post that contains my true voice (which is a bit incredulous and sarcastic at times.) Thanks!

 

With the uncharted frontier of the internet continuing to change and grow every single day it can be a challenge to figure out how to navigate it with your self-esteem still in tact. Cyber-bullying, negative comments, harassment and threats often prevail in the comments sections of tumlbrs, tweets, and profile pictures when in the public domain and health organizations are now exception. I viewed the comments section of several public health twitters and this was some of the beautiful things I found:

 

Planned Parenthood

  • Hey, thanks for killing babies!
  • prolifers don’t care about women’s rights
  •  No, I abhor and your systematic destruction of life, dehumanizing of the unborn and deception to women.

GLAAD

  • how can you be a woman when you have XY chromosomes and a donkey appendage?
  • do you actually believe the Muslims will coexist with you if you do you are very stupid (on the GLAAD website? Come on people keep your bigotry categorized!)

NAACP

 

Just try #blacklivesmatter #lovewins and see the slurs, untruths and pure vitriol peppered in between comments of support and actual debate. I narrowed my search of comments to just twitter and just what I could find within the first 10 tweets (though it’s not an all inclusive list of offenders) and I was not surprised but definitely weary of the things I observed. This does not even scratch the surface of men, women and children threatened with rape, abuse, violence, hatred, racial, ethnic and cultural insults. It’s scary that I don’t need to go find anti-planned parenthood or pro-whateverrace websites to engage these haters. It’s all brought to me, whether I like it or not, when I happen to support certain “controversial” organizations.

This type of talk can be found all over social media in different outlets and while I agree with you that perhaps the food bank isn’t receiving many death threats (I checked), I do believe this is because they have such a small social media presence and not because they exempt from the hatred; they simply aren’t important enough to threaten with a good bombing or sexual assault crime.  In fact, many organizations, not wanting the burden of being gatekeepers of public decency, are turning the comments section off or intentionally deleting posts they find unflattering or downright cruel without responding (2). As we read in Here Comes Everybody this week a website trying to connect teenage magazine readers to a social-hub had to be taken down because of the dangerous sub-group #proana that promotes anorexia as a positive lifestyle choice rather than a mental disorder. Clearly, there is need for caution in public health and microblogging.

Balancing the need for public interaction against the hate speak that people anonymously type on YouTube comments is going to be one of the most difficult tasks to handle right now. I read some articles on the best way to handle issues like these and this is what I’ve found(1)(3)(4)(5):

  1. Document, document, document – with increased offenses from particular people you may be able to gather evidence to have their accounts suspended or be able to file lawsuits of harassment if necessary (though legislation in this area is spotty currently because how can you tell when somebody is being hilariously sarcastic, like me! or truly means the things they are saying)
  2. Keep your composure – Don’t get emotional and respond instantly to offensive tweets; rather, stay calm and reply like a mature adult would (easier said than done!)
  3. Monitor for escalation – Be sure to keep an eye on low level threats to be sure that they don’t get out of hand and become a crisis. Make sure you are vigilant about monitoring all potential threats.
  4. When in doubt ignore it or delete it – If it’s something you can’t handle or see no point in responding to just get rid of it. The attention span of the internet is about 30 seconds. Sometimes non-response can be the way to get a bully to move on.

Feel free to comment below with your ideas for keeping the haters at bay.

 

References

(1) http://agsci.psu.edu/communications/web/social-media/handling-negative-comments-or-complaints-in-social-media

(2) http://mashable.com/2014/12/17/no-comment/

(3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-struggles-with-defining-prosecuting-threats-on-social-media/2014/12/01/26f756ac-7993-11e4-9a27-6fdbc612bff8_story.html

(4) http://www.cision.com/us/2015/06/when-should-you-call-a-social-media-threat-a-crisis/

(5) http://www.seeksocialmedia.com/respond-negative-social-media-comments/

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4 thoughts on “Sexism, Racism and Bigotry Oh My!

  1. Hi Bryanna,
    What a fascinating subject for your post. I found the content very compelling. In our discussion around moving public health work online, a discussion of the negative underbelly of the internet seems an appropriate topic for consideration. While much public health content may be dealt with at an organization level, one should always be concious that social media broadcasting is open and public and comes with consequences. For most writing online, attracting personal negative troll-like abuse happens only once a high public profile has been achieved. But as you point out, if the mission statement of an organization itself is deemed controversial, negative commentary is definitely a possibility. It is interesting to note how several prominent online news sources were disabling their comments section.

    The Guardian had some interesting articles about racism and mysogyny online.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/12/consequences-of-online-racism

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/08/women-misogyny-internet-mary-beard-female-troll

    This post had some interesting suggestions for tackling online mysoguny which included creating consequences for this behavior.
    http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/4-powerful-ways-to-stamp-out-misogyny-on-the-internet.html

    More broadly the solutions probably require a cultural shift to pubilc opinion about the offensive behavior. However, there has to be disctinction between lively debate of opposing opinions and the sometimes vitriolic language that contributes nothing to debate.

    I thought your inclusion of the offending comments was really necessary in the discussion and your disclaimer at the beginning seemed a good way of handling it. You might consider using bold on your list of numbered suggestions and also some of the key phrases to help them stand out as the reader navigates through the post.

    Another suggestion would be to add a couple of images that would also help break up the text, though the post was not overly long in any way. Also perhaps using a feature main image to attract attention to the post.

    You used a good mix of informational and personal approaches in the writing which worked with the content. Your references were interesting. You might consider including them as hyperlinks in the body of your blog and perhaps hyperlink to the organizations Twitter accounts.

    Kudos for taking on the challenge of tackling this aspect of microblogging Bryanna! Good post.

    • Thanks for the in depth response. You’ve made some great critiques that I will keep in mind next time. And thank you so much for the articles. These are some great resources. It really is a scary world on the Internet in some places and I hope we can start legislating to start consequences for threats of violence against women in social media comments. Till then we must all remember to be polite and respectful and try hard not to add fuel to a fire by giving someone attention they don’t deserve.

      -B

      • I agree. I find it ironic that the media are cutting edge but the concept of intimidating large groups of our society from joining the debate and expression is simply medieval .

  2. Thank you for bringing this discussion to light through your blog! The title grabbed my attention right away. While the social media landscape provides a wonderful platform for spreading, sharing and interacting with information in a quick and direct way, there are many consequences to the open platform created by social media and unfortunately the opportunity for pure evil. It could be helpful to include a “how to” delete comments in the microblogging space if they are offensive.

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