Curing Chronically Online Syndrome
The 15th of November marks the beginning of Anti-Bullying Week 2021 which coincides nicely with the 9th of November’s Social Media Kindness Day 2021 AND the 13th of November’s World Kindness Day 2021. As a result, I’ve decided to take you all to my school of online social etiquette in the hopes of raising a generation of internet users who uplift and educate each other instead of tearing each other down in their attempts to correct misinformation. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, a lot of us are “chronically online” or as I like to say, we’re suffering from chronically online syndrome. The truth is, most of us know how to conduct ourselves at this point. We’re all aware of the effects of bullying at this point. But, when it comes to the virtual world, real life rules don’t seem to apply. So here are some rules that do.
1. Bullying is relative
Which means often someone might be offended by something you did not find offensive. You might feel as though you were not bullying that person, but others might feel that you were. You might feel as though you were merely educating someone whereas others might find that your tone was a little off. So, if you are confronted with such, take it with stride, apologise and learn from it. Everyone has their own triggers and boundaries, and we won’t always know where they stem from or understand the reasoning for them, but we must respect them if we hope to live in harmony with others.
2. Bullying is timeless
Plenty of social media users have taken to the statement “sometimes bullying is okay” and statements similar to that effect. Let this be a reminder to everyone in case you forgot: bullying is NEVER okay. And in case you don’t believe me, here’s a long list of things that can happen to a person who is bullied: social anxiety, paranoia, self-harm, anorexia, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, exploitation due to low self-esteem, increased susceptibility to peer pressure etc. By defending someone who you see is being bullied, you can save a life. Or, to reel in the dramatics, you could save them from a very expensive therapy bill, at least.
3. In your passion, do not lose compassion
Whether disagreeing with someone’s think piece on Twitter or responding to a misinformed infographic on Instagram, remember that there is a feeling, thinking person behind that post who, more often than not, doesn’t believe that they are in the wrong. It is okay to be passionate about a topic, but remember that the person with the opposing view is most likely just as passionate as you are, and probably has their reasons, too. If someone is wrong, simply tell them (sort of like… the way you would tell someone you were speaking to face-to-face). I say this with good faith that, in face-to-face interactions, the majority of people wouldn’t harass a stranger because they disagreed with their opinion.
4. Holding people accountable requires forgiveness...
...And at worse, deplatformation if the offence is considerably terrible. But it is never okay to insult someone or make jokes at someone else’s expense in the name of holding them accountable. It can be tempting to try and justify that behaviour with “they had it coming”, but such actions can lead to a person questioning their worth, becoming depressed or worse. Remember the purpose of accountability is to promote growth and encourage self-development. It is and always has been a gift, something that you bestow upon someone you want to see be better and DO better. If you don’t forgive them and allow them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and make amends, you don’t make space for them to grow as a person. But if you hold someone accountable and forgive them, you’ve opened a door for that person to step into a greater version of themselves.
So, that’s it. You’ve learned how to be thoughtful and forward-thinking citizens of the internet and hopefully, you’ve graduated from this course with flying colours. Now, go out into the world (the virtual world) and treat each other right.