Thursday, April 2, 2015

Girls Online: Hate, Shame, Bloggers & Monica Lewinsky:

Online hate, shame and bullying can take myriad forms. From a full-blown media circus to appearing on your University Residency's 'StalkerSpace' Facebook page (true story. Had to pay a carpet cleaning bill, but enough of that) with a nasty comment beside the anecdote. 

Sometimes online 'hate' can seem frivolous, the aforementioned story was something I laughed off. Just like I laughed at the dudebro who once commented on a Youtube video I once made about Feminism suggesting my 'pussy smells like gargoyle feet' (it doesn't, it's just a regular vagina). The problem is when online hate reaches the extent, the person or the trigger that makes it the straight-up bullying the victim cannot ignore.

In a 2010 talk for the Ted X project Monica Lewinsky came out as a pioneer sacrifice to the shame-game  internet punters world over are renowned for playing. She retells some of the history of what she went through when her story was leaked to the world, pouring through the cracks in mainstream journalism to become a viral example of slut-shaming and merciless, relentless unfounded public opinion. At the time she was twenty-two, the same age as I am. Lewinsky's family became terrified for her life, witnessing the scrutiny she was under. 

Lewinsky is not the only person to have felt suicidal under the ever-growing psychological lynch-mob of comments, responses, emails, articles and video dissecting her actions and private life. Last year a British schoolgirl, Hannah Smith, killed herself after receiving online hate, and she's not the only student who has done so.

Between student suicides and celebrity phone hacks we are reminded that we are living in a culture which seems to commodify shame, hatred and refuse privacy, and more to the point as Lewinsky stated, refuses empathy to those who sometimes find their private moments publicised. 

Last year blogging/vlogging sensation Zoe Sugg wrote a blog post titled, 'Why I stopped Daily Vlogging' - a response to her audience of mostly teenage girls who were curious as to why she was no longer so candid in chronicling her daily activities - which explained that it was because she and her fellow famous blogger/vlogger friends simply found they received far too much negativity in the comments section of her channel. Later that year after the gossip-mongering regarding whether or not she wrote her debut novel, Girl Online, Sugg tweeted her need to take a break from the online world stating it was, 'clouding up her brain'.

The supposition, hypostatising, arguing and relentless sharing of opinions which may or may not have been well thought out that occurs in the online culture is enough to 'cloud up' anyone's brain, 

The thing about the internet is that how we use it and how we define it's relevance for ourselves is up to us. We can use it to spread positivity and well-constructed arguments and critiques, or we can use it to shamelessly troll people and virtually force them to feel awful about themselves. We can use it to spread information, or we can use it to clog other people's heads up with garbage. We can use it to turn shame into a commodity or we can use it to encourage connection, empathy and creativity. It's up to us, because what doesn't get lost in the barrage of the information superhighway is what we don't let get out from under our radar, that's the stuff that outlines and defines the movement for those outside of it. If people who use the internet want it to look like a positive movement and medium of expression, it's up to them to ensure they participate and promote those aspects.

It's interesting how the internet is the easiest place for people to lead and own, as like the movements of the past all it requires is a voice to direct it, yet the internet has become a place utterly subject to 'followers'. 

The easiest way to avoid commodifying a person's shame is to not take the click-bait. Just don't click on the tabloid-esque story. Find something more worthy of your time to read. What is the point of allowing the free media to become a place where the greatest ideas of our time get lost in a melee of negativity. I often find it more interesting to see the other side of the story, or look up a cool artist/documentary/philosopher/fashion video, etc.