Unfortunately, we live in a world where people abuse others. It sucks, but it’s happened for thousands of years and is unlikely to change anytime soon. It’s been pretty much twenty years since the Internet came into our lives, but probably ten since it became a significant part of our daily routine. It’s still a relatively new medium. It takes time for the rules and lawmakers to adjust to these new realities that are anyway changing constantly. For the moment, it somehow feels like a parallel universe where you can be whoever you want – your superhero self or your evil twin. It can be a platform where you can find a job, a home, a love. It can give you the opportunity to share your work or thoughts. But it can also make you feel sad.
I surely talk from a perspective. I create and share my art for a living. I make electronic music. The Internet has made it easy for people like me to connect with loads of others. People that I wouldn’t have been able to reach before. Now we have so many platforms to promote our work and even more popping up on a daily basis: Youtube, Soundcloud, the streaming services, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat… the list can go on forever. These platforms give us the opportunity to interact with our fans, the people who are interested in the content we’re sharing. But they also provide a stage for the so-called haters. There are cyber bullies whose purpose is to creep out and disturb everyone with their mean opinions. We shouldn’t take it personally, but, oh well, we do. I do, at least.
Everyone tells me that I shouldn’t care – negative comments, thumbs down, unlikes, un-friendings… all these things are part of the game. Sure thing. I hear you. And I’m really happy that you can cope with it, if you can. If you cannot, trust me, I understand you.
I used to be in a band. During my three-and-a-half years being part of a duet, I adopted a shy persona. Guess what? On my solo project, I am not shy – I’m more confident. The music I make is different from the band I was part of – I don’t and would never compete with them. When I started sharing my own music, I received numerous messages from „fake people“ with „no face“ who were telling me that my new music sucks, that I’m nothing without the band. There was one person who said I should consider dying if I wanted faster recognition. Trolls would send me photos of the band with a new frontwoman telling me they’re doing way better without me. Others would harass me with sexual content or abusive language. It might sound like high school to you, but those things really affected me. And I couldn’t tell if I knew those people or not because I didn’t know their real names. I decided to de-activate my private facebook profile because of that and since then I’ve been way happier. I might be better off without those trashy messages, but that doesn’t stop the phenomenon from existing.
To be clear, constructive criticism is the alpha and the omega of evolution and progress. Especially when it comes to politics, journalism, science, arts and everything around those things – a tough-love comment can only push you further. “Constructive” means that it’s aimed to help; it’s said in a way that’s not insulting. Words can cut like a sharp knife – one should be aware of that.
What happens on the internet is not happening in real life. In fact, we’ve become so scared. Despair rules and gives the world a taint of cruelty. There are so many of us who have been attacked on the streets, who have been beaten, harassed by words and fists. And usually, the bystanders are so scared to get in the middle of a fight, get confronted or beaten themselves that they choose to ignore the scene and not help the victim. I’ve been publicly beaten twice by people I never saw before in my life, but that’s a crime I can report to the police. Even if I don’t know their names, I’ve seen their faces. As weird as it may sound, the physical pain I’ve felt is equal to the emotional hopelessness I feel when I get attacked online. Mostly because everyone says there’s nothing I can do against it.
We cannot go on ignoring the fact that the Internet needs some structure. We cannot go on without a rulebook and consequences for those who don’t follow it. We cannot permit „anonymous“ people hurting „identified“ people. Imagine being a kid growing up with all this technology around you. Imagine being a kid with a YouTube account. Go to the comments section of a popular music video and see the words that kids are using. I’m not saying we should go back to the Victorian age and limit ourselves. All I’m suggesting is some structure or education to somehow eliminate the anonymous attacks. Why not showing your true ID if you hold such a strong, bold opinion about someone or something? Why hiding behind a keyboard? Perhaps, these cyber bullies are not that proud of shaming people. I am a real person with a face and a name and I take responsibility for my comments. Since I do my part, I have expectations. I want to interact with real people that show me their faces and names. Is this such an irrational wish? Who wouldn’t appreciate this transparency? Let’s wave the flag of free speech, but do it proudly. Let’s identify ourselves. And for those that choose to be absurdly provocative, be ready to face the consequences.
Photo by: Chryse Tsiota, Thodoris Markou