Last week, I shared some of the horrendous messages, threats, and hate my family and I have been receiving at the hands of online bullies.
I want to first acknowledge and thank those of you who have reached out to me with encouragement, your kindness and responses have meant the world to me. My only goal in sharing any aspect of my life is to find connection, and though being vulnerable about the hate I have received was hard, hearing from all of you made it worth it.
That said, I think it’s important that we have a conversation about how we deal with online bullies.
In addition to the encouraging messages I received from those of you who wanted to comfort me after the post went live, I also received messages from and about the people whose comments I posted to my blog. Some were remorseful and others were condemning, but none were very constructive.
I want to be very clear about something, which is that I don’t believe in cancel culture. When we “cancel” an individual, we take away their potential to learn, grow, and become an ally. I think the key to unlocking cancel culture while still maintaining a safe environment for everyone is to never expect the person who is hurt by the comment or action to do the educating. I am not going to engage with my cyberbullies, but I do ask that if you support me or anyone else who is being victimized online, that you don’t make yourself part of the problem by spreading more hate in response. Here’s my approach to dealing with online bullies:
If you are in the right mental space, call it out constructively when you see it (and if you aren’t in the right space, just report it instead)
Say something along the lines of, “hey, that’s really not cool and you should choose your words more carefully. This is wrong because of X, Y, and/or Z.”
If you’re not being heard, report that person and call others to do the same. This will help to make social media platforms a safer place while allowing people (especially young teens) the opportunity to do better, learn, grow, and foster a spirit of community online.
Have compassion. I constantly remind myself that many people bully others because of their own life situations, that they often project their own sadness and hatred of themselves or their lives onto others because it’s an easy thing to do. Anytime I read a hate comment, I try to think of the person behind the comment and what is happening in his or her life to cause such pain. It gives me perspective and most of all gratitude for all of the love and goodness I have in my own life.
I can’t stop thinking about a quote that I feel perfectly resonates with this situation, and really any situation where the root of the problem is ignorance. We as a collective society have the responsibility and power to make change that leaves the world a better, safer, and more loving place for everyone, and I think this quote perfectly sums up how we go about doing that:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I hope this quote motivates you to generate positive change in your communities in any situation where people are being hurt by the ignorance of others, and I hope that more and more, we can work to build a world – both online and in real life – where people feel accepted, cared for, and encouraged.