Zelda Williams and a reminder about cyberbullying

By Caitlyn Schmid| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog Social Justice Young Adults

The last time I checked, people don’t walk down the street pointing and laughing at their neighbors. When someone trips, we rush to his or her side to offer an arm up instead of replaying the incident a dozen times. If someone loses a loved one, we offer our sympathies at the funeral and help in the healing process. So why do people use the anonymity of the Internet and social media to be disrespectful?

There is no doubt that these mediums have had an enormous impact on our world. We are now connected at every second. As much as they have changed our world, some argue that the Internet—or “splinternet” to some—will inevitably end because of the rifts it creates between nations.

Social media, too, has immense power. It has the ability to create global activism as it did with the Arab Spring. It can aid in movements like the 26 Acts of Kindness that went viral following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

In the wake of the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, his daughter Zelda received incredibly heinous Twitter messages with vile words and disturbing Photoshopped images depicting her father after his death. Zelda had received many messages of support and love from her fans, but unfortunately these two “trolls” led her to quit social media. She tweeted:

Although this is an extreme case, it is a great example an issue we need to address. Twitter has vowed to make their anti-abuse policies stronger.

Cyberbullying (using electronic devices to send mean and embarrassing text messages, e-mails, rumors, photographs, and videos) is a problem that is often overlooked until it becomes national news—as in the case of Zelda Williams. But it happens daily and sometimes we don’t even know we are doing it. How many of us are guilty of laughing at a video from YouTube of someone tripping? How many of us have written in the comment section less-than-encouraging words of a woman showing off her guitar skills? People are vulnerable to this type of abuse; it even leads to suicide in some cases.

As Buzzfeed beautifully pointed out to us two weeks ago, everyone on the Internet is an actual person—flesh and blood, mind and soul—and that we tend to forget this incredibly important concept. If you wouldn’t do something in person—laugh, point, state your honest opinion—then don’t do it anonymously over the Internet.

Please, please be kind to one another.

Image: ©morgueFile/taliesin