From time to time on social media I come across trolls, not the annoying singing and happy colourful ones…but those whose main aim in life is to mock those with disabilities or argue and abuse those with a different opinion to themselves.
Over the last few months, in fact since refugees began to flee Syria I have become increasingly aware of these types of accounts on social media. I’ve been repeatedly trolled for my opinions by those who claim that there’s a secret White Genocide going on, those who have questioned whether my son really was stillborn, accusing me of trying to score “social media points” and then the ‘delightful‘ trolls who set up fake accounts purely to mock those with disabilities.
There’s a particular troll who trolls the Independent Facebook page. He loves nothing more than to spout hate. It’s laughable that he chooses to end every comment with “xx” – to sweeten the blow perhaps? You get to know the form for trolls, they tend to have no friends, be relatively new accounts, fake pictures, fake names and they target the vulnerable, the famous or anyone who says something they don’t like.
When I was little I remember my mum saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Well I’m very sorry but that’s just not true as much as I would like it to be. It was a good way to protect myself at the time, to survive, to show those bullies that I wasn’t bothered, but inside we all know that I was.
I could choose to ignore these accounts. Take no action at all, just to scroll on by. But I believe in equality and fairness, my sense of right and accountability steps to the fore.
I’m not sure if you’ve seen the harassment that Lily Allen has recently received on twitter. Someone asked Lily how she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was following on from a point that she was trying to make about how people judge and band together immigrants. She had used a comparison by substituting the word immigrant with old person. The point was missed by so many people who chose not to understand the point that she was trying to make…it wasn’t a difficult point to understand. It’s just that Lily tends to divide opinion. It would be a boring world if we all thought the same but people judge her because she’s a celebrity, they disagree with her views and accuse her of using the death of her child to stifle objections to her points. So because they feel so strongly about her, they choose not to see her point, blinkered by their own views.
Lily gave a very blunt answer. It was the truth. And the trolls didn’t like it. Too much information for them perhaps? She received a torrent of abuse. One person said that it was because of her views that her son had died.
When I saw Lily being so horrendously trolled I did speak up. I assured some of the trolls that it is quite possible to get PTSD from the stillbirth of your child. This particular nasty seemed to think that PTSD was the sole domain of those in the armed forces. I politely assured them that wasn’t the case.
I believe in education, so gently I explained how it is entirely possible, asking for understanding and compassion. This account couldn’t comprehend the point I was making.
You see losing a child in such a traumatic way is certain to have a serious impact on you. It did with me. Picking on someone because their child has died is unforgivable. You may not agree with someone’s politics but their dead child is off limits. I mean come on, who are we as a society if that is ok?
Generally I don’t try to engage with trolls, I report and block. I don’t engage normally. However if I think someone could be educated or corrected and they seem receptive then I will occasionally engage. I’m all for healthy debate. It’s how we all learn.
I report comments on a nearly daily basis on social media. I see so much hatred and vitriol to our fellow man. And I don’t know why people think like this. I can’t understand how someone with a disability, different religion or skin colour can be fair game to mock, threaten and abuse.
I’ve been told several times to not react to those types of accounts. To not share their details. I’ve explained why I take the actions that I do which is simply this.
For example, if someone is trolling our DS community, if they are targeting my friends then I will warn my friend to block the accounts. I don’t want my friends being targeted and I don’t want their information to be accessed by the troll. I will also ask people to report the account asap. It seems that the more people who report trolls, the more likely that those accounts will be suspended, closed or comments removed.
There are different types of trolls. There are those who set up accounts purely to spout hatred and vitriol, they had behind fake names and pictures. The accounts tend to have 1 or 2 followers and around ten tweets in total. They target certain groups of people.
Then you have the people who have real pictures and have been active for a long time. Yet they see no wrong in their behaviour. They are cruel and vile. Yet they try to justify their cruelty by blaming others.
I am all for staying calm but my simply scrolling past those comments and accounts, I’m leaving others open to being trolled. So I report and I block. I ask others to do the same.
If someone is being cruel then I will step in. If I can see that they are more than just a troll, I will try to debate and change minds. What happened with Lily was personal to me. She is one brave lady. She sticks her head up over the parapet time and again. She doesn’t have to. You may not like her but you ought to respect her for standing up for what she believes in, even if it doesn’t coincide with your view.
It is so important to me that people know that these types of things go on. If we talk about them between ourselves, whilst obviously not giving the trolls the satisfaction of seeing our reaction, then we are spreading awareness. For me that means that others will be more careful on social media and in turn will be more protective of those like my daughter. These trolls sadly exist. They do get kicks out of it, they love to provoke and be talked about. Their comments are incendiary and it’s all too easy to imagine them sitting back and enjoying the “fruits of their labour”. It’s not what decent people do and you have to question their own moral standards to want to do such a thing.
The derogatory comments that these accounts often make are ridiculous. I find the new insult of snowflake hilarious personally. It seems that to be called a snowflake is a bad thing as they melt away…hmm. In this country the sight of one snowflake sets panic buying in the supermarkets, chaos on the roads and weather warnings. Many snowflakes can turn into an avalanche – destructive yet so beautiful. All snowflakes are unique. Whoever first thought of this insult clearly never thought it through!
So why should I be quiet?
Why should I not report?
Why shouldn’t I on occasion, challenge their reprehensible behaviour?
Those that know me, know that I struggle to keep my own counsel at the best of times. But today in 2017 I refuse to lie down and be trampled on. With everything that is happening in the world we need to be proactive and we need to protect each other. I will not be bullied or allow others to be. I will call out wrongs, will not hide and I am so pleased that I have so many like minded friends. We may not agree with each other on all points, we may differ but that’s ok. Having a differing opinion doesn’t give anyone the right to abuse, troll or mock others, particularly those who are less able than ourselves whether it be through disability, language or circumstance.
Whatever happened to common courtesy and decency?