We must stamp out bullying!
People must be allowed freedom of speech!
So which should we concentrate on then? Huh? I’m confused. Surely we can’t achieve both. Or can we..?
We’ve all heard these two sentences, most will agree with both. But until some people grow up, or get a conscience, or experience empathy, I fear we can’t have the two. Bullying is no longer confined to a big kid picking on a little kid in the school playground. It has spread its wings far and wide, and looks different for different people.
The reason I have pondered this, for a while I might add, is the recent charging & punishment of internet trolls. This development pleased me. But cries of ‘freedom of speech’ are becoming louder than the troll’s actions. This development worries me.
When does exercising your right to free speech become bullying?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for freedom of speech, albeit responsible. When we were six we could probably just say whatever came into our head. Not when we are 26. As a grown up, we cannot just say anything. Anyone is perfectly entitled (& don’t get me started on the word ‘entitled’.. Rant to follow shortly) to say their other half looks like a bag of spanners in their new outfit, but it’s unkind, & unwise. Because we will hurt that person, and it’s never acceptable to intentionally hurt others, even though we would have exercised our right to free speech. My somewhat less volatile example is the lower end of the spectrum I know, and I’m not trying to make light of it. I just wonder if the sort of person that trolls on the internet started by getting away with being inconsiderate to those they were closer to.
Twitter has allowed us a great privilege. To connect with those who were previously unattainable. Be them far flung or famous. Most of us, thankfully, will not abuse this power, but the unfortunate few do. The original definition of ‘Bully’ was a stronger person who picked on a weaker person. This doesn’t fit so well now. We all know the troll is the weaker person. So it must be about power. I personally think these trolls are bullies, and we are not supposed to bully.
If it’s said and it’s hurtful, it’s hurtful. If it’s tweeted and it’s hurtful, it’s still hurtful. We don’t draw the line at saying something to a face. If it’s tweeted to a well known person? STILL hurtful! If it’s tweeted to someone you consider a friend who can handle it..? STILL hurtful. “I say it as I see it!” Or “I tweet it as I think it!” Is no excuse in my opinion. It just highlights the fact that the person ‘being honest’ is an idiot. Honesty is not always the best policy.
Punishing someone should not be reserved for those that physically or racially abuse. Abuse comes in many forms.. Including taking a dislike to someone on Twitter and bombarding them with vile, often badly spelt tweets.
So let’s step up the anti-bullying, and understand its different guises, and let’s have less of the free speech rants eh? Those of us that are responsible hardly ever exercise our rights to free speech after all.