by JAMILA RIZVI
On Wednesday night a line got crossed. Host of Australia’s Next Top Model, Charlotte Dawson was hospitalised following a horrific stream of abuse being sent her way via social media.
This wasn’t mere sticks-and-stones or have-a-spoon-full-of-concrete kind of stuff. This was a sustained and vitriolic attack over several hours from dozens of people – each of them urging Charlotte to end her life.
I repeat. On Wednesday night a line got crossed.
The problem is that I’m not exactly sure where that line was.
Or at what point it got crossed. Or by whom.
When things like this happen, we look around for someone to blame. Because blame makes us feel better about what happened. Blame gives us someone or something to direct our anger at. Blame is part of how we assure ourselves that it won’t happen again and it won’t happen to us or someone we love.
But I’ll tell you something: blame is the easy part.
You can blame the people who wrote those horrible things, you can blame Charlotte for fueling the fire by engaging with them, you can blame Twitter for providing a platform for such things to be said, you can blame the Government for not policing social media better… Hell, you can blame the advent of the Internet itself.
What is much harder though and where the conversation absolutely MUST go next, is one step further along the thought process from blame – and that, is responsibility.
Sadly, we live in a world where it often takes an incident involving the cult of celebrity to make us sit up and take notice. So let’s notice. What Charlotte Dawson experienced this week is akin to the kind of cyber bullying that countless young people are subjected to every day.
Yes, there have always been and there will always be bullies. But what happens to kids today is not like it used to be. Where you used to be able to go safely home at the end of the day and leave it all behind – you can’t any more – because the bullies are on your parent’s computer, on your laptop, on your iPad and on your smart phone.
They can get to you. 24. Hours. A. Day.
There will be those who say Charlotte Dawson should have just switched off. That she should have reported the abuse, blocked the users, logged off Twitter, closed her laptop and walked away.
And I tend to agree with them. Of course that would have been the best and most sensible course of action. But it’s far easier said than done. And if a confident and successful adult finds it difficult to ignore this kind of extreme bullying – imagine how hard that is for a 12-year-old kid.