Recently, I have been rewatching “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” tv series and despite my inherent love for all things Joss Whedon the show is clearly dated. In the late 90’s the internet was in its early stages, cell phones were the size of a small dog, and card catalogs were the search engine of choice. Technology has changed our way of life in the past 10-15 years and an anonymous online community came into existence that can be both a positive, sharing environment or a negative, trolling opportunity.
I normally avoid internet trolls by not posting on websites that draw negativity; unfortunately that leaves me out of the conversation on worthwhile topics but it does maintain my sanity so it’s a trade-off. I knew it was only a matter of time before I was trolled because of my “crazy”, liberal beliefs and lo and behold it happened. I was attacked on a blog I frequent for a comment I made discussing victim-blaming. Essentially the troll took the opportunity to claim that I was uninformed and that victim-blaming was acceptable if the victim deserved it.
The accepted opinion is that by acknowledging trolls we feed their negativity but I believe the reason trolls exist on the internet is because they can cloak themselves in relative anonymity and spread hate without the repercussions that a face to face discussion would incur. There are few consequences for internet trolls, which is why cyber-bullying is the outlet of choice for school age bullies.
I have to wonder if this is what we want for ourselves and our society? A construct that allows unfiltered animosity to soak into our collective unconscious and influence future generations. When I was a kid I was able to leave the mean girls and bullies at school and they didn’t follow me home via text messages, skype, or facebook. These days there is no escape from bullies who employ technology to fight their battle for them. As an adult, I can take on internet trolls without a blow to my self-esteem or belief system but trolls can be devastating for someone whose self-worth is built on what others think of them.
I wonder how a Buffy would handle high school in the new millennium with the interwebs posing a greater threat than the creepy crawlies of the night? I like to think that she would kick-ass in cyberspace with a witty retort (e.g. “You need to show this bully that you’re not gonna take any more of his sh— guuuff. Uh, any guff.”) and a visit from Mr. Pointy. Which is why I suggest we start a revolution, Buffy-style. One that says we will fight back and draw back the veil on cyber-bullying and hate speech in order to maintain a healthy online experience and community. That is not to suggest that constructive debate or oppositional beliefs are prohibited but that hate speech is rejected and we will stand up to those who employ it. So join me, stand up, and fight back against internet bullies, Buffy-style.