This report suggests that most young people think calling people names online like ‘slut’ or ‘fag’ is just joking around and not to be taken seriously. It says that 71% of people are more likely to use slurs online or in text than they would in person and only half are likely to ask someone to stop using such language.
One responder comments that ‘nobody really cares about nobody’s feelings’. A significant minority do find such comments offensive particularly if they identify with the group involved. 55% of those surveyed said they have witnessed people being mean to each other on social networking sites. However, over half think that people are just doing this to be cool or to be funny. One person observes that this produces a coarsening effect and loosen people’s boundaries on what is acceptable.
The anonymity of the internet falsely leads people to believe they can ‘get away it’ – say what they like to whomever they like without consequence. It is well recognised that people say things online on blogs or social networking sites that they would not say face to face. It is easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment and say things we might later regret or wish we had expressed differently. The fact is that name-calling and online slurs are not harmless fun – far from it. We can become aware of how harming these comments are if we just stop and feel. These slurs and name-calling are a form of bullying and there are reports of young people committing suicide as a result. This young boy did a video to encourage other gay or bisexual boys that ‘it gets better’ – but has since committed suicide due to bullying and name calling that included cyber bullying. Such comments don’t just affect the person they are directed at but they also always have consequences for the sender even if this is not immediately apparent to the individual. For some, those consequences are apparent as there are reports of people being sacked or suspended because of comments they have made on social networking sites.
Every expression we make comes with an energy that is either healing or harming – there is no in-between. No prizes for guessing that online slurs are harming and certainly not healing. Not only that – but what we put out, comes back to us in some way. So there are always consequences to all of our choices and putting out an energy that is unloving, hate-full or harming in any way will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on one’s journey of life through its many incarnations. Such understandings call us to take full responsiblity not just for what we say, but how we say it – the energy we say it with. Not only that but it also calls us to endeavour to stop such abusive language or name calling when we see it – otherwise we are complicit with it. A tall order perhaps and not so easy to live in today’s society but if we don’t…… then who will??
Feel free to share your experience or observations on this topic.