By Michael Mulcahy
When we hear about online bullying we generally relate it to young people and the horrendous stories that we have all heard about over the years and the detrimental consequences for some young people and their families as a result of what they have endured online and what has been said about them. There are so many different elements to this and so many examples that we all know about that it isn’t necessary to go further with this other than to say that the faceless cowards who hide behind anonymous profiles and pages that encourage this have no place in a normal decent society and the corporate owners of platforms that foster and encourage this practice need to have multi million euro sanctions imposed on them by state legislators in each jurisdiction that such material is promoted.
The growth of anonymous pages online is most likely consistent with the populist view that many feel that they can say anything about anyone or anything and get away with it as the risks of being found out are minimal. What is even more worrying is the number of people who see themselves as respectable, who speak well, who earn well and who consider themselves to be the promoters of all that is supposed to be positive and encouraging and yet feel that their own social media pages give them the right to assault people and businesses in the most vile way by supposedly ‘having a laugh at their expense’. They see it as humorous, they see it as point scoring and they see it as their right to be able to do it. I think many of us see them as childish and spiteful with many quite obviously going through some type of mid life crisis where the crisis is winning. In recent times, seeing so many people and women in particular who are being subjected to this type of bullying is very annoying and it’s no wonder that the number of people withdrawing from social media is at an all time high. Our laws of defamation are strict and yet so called humour and innuendo doesn’t fall in to this area. Libel and slander are another matter and there has been many cases in recent times where these so called keyboard warriors with faces have been caught out and made to rectify their ways. That is only right. In my view this type of behaviour from so called respectable people is no different to the anonymous pages where people don’t have to back up or verify what they are saying. These respectable people have lots of hangers on whom they call followers and friends but all they do is promote and encourage division which of course is one of the reasons that society is as messed up as we see it today. When this issue is raised, people say ‘oh man up’, ‘don’t be so sensitive, ‘don’t let them get to you’, and for a lot of us we can deal with any of this that comes our way but my worry is for those who can’t and haven’t a thick skin which of course you need today if you are seen as being out there, doing things and in the public eye. We all have to accept that for the people that like any of us there will be people that don’t like us and as the Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said recently on The Late Late Show, if people are so sad in their own lives that they have to write insults and hurtful things about you, then ignore them as their ignorance says more about who they are and what their beliefs in themselves are. Anyone in politics, media or public life today has to have a thick skin and has to get used to being in the firing line but people who have no connection to these sectors and have to endure online bullying and abuse should not have to endure or accept this. Needless to say no one should have to endure it but society as we now know it has allowed it to become the norm. It is my view that if you engage in unjustified online abuse of a person or their business then you are an online bully and should be called out as so and deserve to be labelled as an online bully……Wouldn’t it be a great philosophy for people to have a self regulation mode for social media whereby they instil in themselves the view that talking people and businesses up rather than down was what their focus in life should be.