Anonymity brings out the worst in people. The keyboard cowards, who abuse their targets online, make that abundantly clear.
For those of us in the public sphere, insults are a part of daily life. The thing is that you get used to the snarky tweets and aggressive letters, to the point where they disappear into the background noise, but when I read that someone thought I have a “head like a busted sandshoe and a brain to match” I just couldn’t take it anymore… I had to burst out laughing.
It’s no secret that the tone of online ‘discussion’ has become ridiculous. The vitriol is so shrill and so desperate, that it has gone beyond farce and become hilarious. Just the other day I received some helpful tips and constructive criticisms:
“Every time I see you, you’ve gone up two dress sizes! What size are you now?” one person asked before another helpfully chimed in with “Fix your eyebrows, COW HEAD!”
It also turns out that I’m “as mad as a meat-axe” and “as trustworthy as a rattlesnake” according to some of my more enthusiastic fans.
It’s tempting to blame Twitter for an apparent drop in the current quality of public discussion but to do so would overly simplify the matter, because it’s not just online. Some of what comes to my office in the form of quaint, handwritten letters is so foul that it would make the most offensive Twitter troll blush.
A lot of what is written in these anonymous, scrawled notes cannot be reprinted here. Rest assured, ‘COW HEAD’ is a compliment compared to what some people send in.
I’m not telling you this so that you’ll feel sorry for me, oh no. I’m telling you this because there are other people out there who receive the same abuse, or worse, every single day and many of them are unable to respond in any way.
Today, the day before ‘National Day of Action against Bullying’, I’m launching a version of the Mean Tweets video phenomenon that has been sweeping the globe. It’s called “Pleasantries with Sarah Hanson-Young Part 1” and it’s just a little window into the mountain of charitable correspondence that I receive.
You can watch Part 1 of Pleasantries with Sarah Hanson Young here (post continues after the video):
By reading out select parts from some of the letters, emails, Facebook messages and Tweets that I receive, I’m hoping to show people that bullying usually has absolutely nothing to do with its victims. I’ve made this video because bullies often hide in the shadows, addicted to anonymity, and sunlight truly is the best disinfectant. Whether you’ve got bullies in the schoolyard or a bunch of morons tweeting you online, it’s crucial to remember that it’s all about them, not you.
At midday tomorrow, on the National Day of Action against Bullying, I’m going to release Part 2 of “Pleasantries” on my Facebook page. I hope you’ll join me there!
Sarah Hanson-Young is a Greens Senator from South Australia – you can follow her here:[email protected]
You can watch Mamamia’s latest version of ‘Famous Women Reading Mean Tweets’ here…
What do you think? Is laughter the best way to deal with online bullies?