Monday, 28 January 2019

Why "Don't Put Yourself Out There..." is Toxic BS

Imagine the following scenario in your head.

You walk out of your house one day, on your way to meet a friend for a coffee. And as you turn to walk out of your gate, a random stranger walks past you.

As they pass, they look at your face for a minute. You carry on walking, when they call you turn around and they run up to you to show you a photo they sneakily took of you on their phone, which they've placed alongside a cartoon villain.

"I saw you just now and you reminded me of this character" they say, showing you the photograph.

Then they walk away.

Strange, right? Rude even?, you continue on your way and as you reach the end of the road, another stranger on the other side of the street shouts out to you "YOUR OUTFIT LOOKS SHIT!"

Throughout the rest of your journey to the coffee shop, this strange treatment continues. People comment on your hairstyle, they give you a "thumbs down" as they pass you, the barista tells you she doesn't like your voice.

Feeling a bit hurt and deflated by this onslaught of rudeness, you sit down in front of your friend and explain what's happened and how upset its made you feel.

"Well...." Your friend replies..."You left your house, you walked among the public. What do you expect? People have a right to voice their opinions".

You're probably reading this right now thinking "Well that's ridiculous! Nobody has a right to be so blatantly rude and unkind to people purely in the name of voicing their opinions"...right?!

At least I hope that's what you're thinking. That's surely what any decent human being should think when faced with this sort of treatment of another person.

But what if I told you that this didn't actually happen out on the street, but rather online?

That incident with the cartoon character? That happened to me yesterday.

I opened my messages on Instagram, to find that some random woman who had just started following me that evening and had never contacted me before - had seen fit to take a screenshot of my face from my Instagram stories, put it alongside a cartoon villain and send it to me.

With no other words to accompany it - to make clear it was intended as a joke, or anything along those lines. Just the picture.

Now to be fair to her...the picture was actually fricking hilarious. I laughed out loud when I opened it. And if it had come from a friend or someone I had some kind of familiarity with, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it.

I don't take myself all that seriously.

But that isn't the point. Because after I laughed at it...I thought to myself "How bloody WEIRD is that though. That someone thinks its acceptable to take a screenshot of someone they don't know, make that image and send it without a word"

She knew nothing about me.

She didn't know that actually - I've just spent the last 2 years in therapy trying to recover from PTSD and low self-esteem after a lifetime of bullying and abuse which was largely centered around my appearance.

She didn't know that something she may well have seen as an innocent joke could have been a real trigger for me.

And more to the point, she apparently saw nothing wrong or rude about her decision to send that image to me - rather than just think to herself "Oh she reminds me of that cartoon character", keep her thought to herself and move on.

I very much doubt that she would have thought it appropriate to do that if she had just walked past me on the street. So WHY did she think that different rules of social conduct apply online?

And THAT is something that I have seen happening more and more.

Not only to me, but to the vast majority of bloggers and instagrammers that I know.

People get nasty comments left on their YouTube videos, haters repeatedly thumbs down their videos rather than simply unsubscribing, people send spiteful private messages on social media or make shaming comments on Instagram photos.

And if anyone dares to speak up about it or say it's out of line...the common consensus is always the same.

"Well you chose to put yourself out there..."

As though somebody's choice to share aspects of their lives on the internet means they forfeit their right to be treated with the same social conduct we would expect in our everyday lives.

As though it somehow eliminates any responsibility we have to treat other human beings with kindness and respect.

Well, I call bullshit.

The "You put yourself out there" excuse is nothing short of toxic.

It is victim blaming - pure and simple.

NO human being with an ounce of decency should see fit to cause hurt or upset to another purely in the name of exercising their right to an opinion.

Not out on the street and not from behind a screen, either.

I believe that our "right to an opinion" is used far too often as an excuse for bullying and/or spreading unnecessary negativity these days.

Instead of being so keen to exercise your right to your opinion, why not exercise your right to unfollow those who don't interest you instead? To scroll past content which doesn't appeal to you rather than feel the need to "Call it out"?

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly hard to survive in for many of us - mental health problems are on the rise, suicide rates are high, a huge percentage of people are living under financial strain - why would you want to risk upsetting another person when you don't have to?

Perhaps I'm simply part of the so called "Snowflake generation" and I feel quite certain that I will never understand the way that so many people see fit to treat other - but quite frankly, I'd much rather be someone with empathy and sensitivity than someone who feels the need to express their opinion at all costs.

It is not true that those of us who choose to "Put ourselves out there" are sitting ducks that you are free to take aim at as you see fit.

If you are deliberately hurtful towards another human being, then you are an unpleasant person. The same is true whether you do this on the street or on the internet.

An arsehole is an arsehole at the end of the day, and it's a shame that there are so many of you out there.

I will never enjoy the way that people see fit to treat me online, but I refuse to allow it to silence me.

Don't expect those of us who are sensitive to nastiness to hide away in fear of you - we are not the ones who need to change our ways.

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