Miss Communications – Trolls, Free Speech and Trying to Get Along

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The Intersection of 36th and Troll

The Intersection of 36th and Troll (Photo credit: sea turtle)

It seems like every few days I hear another story about someone being trolled online to the point that they’re being threatened with rape and/or death. Threats that are so vile and filled with hate that people go off-line and underground because not just their names get splashed across the web, but the names of their spouses and kids along with home addresses and phone numbers. It blows my mind that people go online to express an opinion and suddenly they’re in fear for their lives and the lives of people the love. To be honest friends, I’m a little worried to even write about this topic should it cause Hell Fire to rain down upon me and mine. But, how do things change if we’re all too afraid to talk about it?

First and foremost, I respect everyone’s right to free speech. I respect the right of a person express their opinions. Any opinions. The ones who speak out against people spewing hate, and even the people who are spewing the hate. Everyone has the right to express an opinion.

But where I run into a moral dilemma is when someone uses their right of free expression to make someone’s life a living hell. When you threaten to rape or kill someone because you don’t agree with them. Or because you think it’s funny. And since no one can stop you or do a damn thing about it, then so much the better.

One of the best things about the internet is the ability to be anyone you want. You can take on a whole new personality if you want. You can have the courage to say the things you wouldn’t normally say in real life. And there in lies the rub.

Suddenly people can say whatever they want because they don’t have to look anyone in the face when they do it. They can threaten death and rape and destruction of property and never have to see the fear in the eyes of the people they’re spewing their hatred at. They don’t feel bad about it because it doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s only words on a computer screen by someone (probably) miles away who (most likely) would never (usually) follow through on any threats (that you know of).  It’s letting off steam, it’s a little fun, and no one is actually getting hurt.

But the people making the threats seem to forget that there are real life people on the other end of those words. Somewhere there is a person who suddenly has their address appear online with messages about breaking into her home, or following her and raping her. Somewhere else is trying not to look worried walking their kids to the car that someone will make good on the threat and come after him with a baseball bat. There’s a teenager somewhere afraid to leave their house and afraid to tell their parents why.

And that’s supposed to be ok? Because it’s words on a computer it’s ok? Because someone said it on Twitter instead of to your face you’re not allowed to feel scared or worried? If someone says that they’re scared or worried they get blasted again. They’re told not to talk about it, not to engage or interact because it’s what the trolls want.

It seems like high school all over again to me. And honestly people, how many times did ignoring the bully and going about your business make the bully realize the error of their ways and walk away? Not that getting in the bully’s face worked any better – everyone just ends up battered and bruised this way. I don’t know that there is a good way to deal with it when it happens. Maybe the answer is for it not to happen in the first place.

I think most people would agree it is not good manners to threaten bodily harm of another human being, no matter how much you disagree with them. It’s just not polite. Maybe we should all start there. Let’s try to be a little more polite. If you see someone you know being stupid and impolite enough to threaten someone, call them on it. Ask them if they would say the same thing if their Mom or Grandmother or child was holding their hand and while they talked to the person face-to-face. If you can’t say it to someone’s face or in front of someone you respect, you probably shouldn’t be saying it.

So let’s start there, shall we? Let’s try to communicate a little better. Let’s try to be a little more polite and remember that words have meaning that there are real live human beings out there reading them. It’s not much, but maybe it could help.

Other Miss Communication Posts

5 Reasons NOT to Use Video

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I realized the other day after reading this that I’ve talked about reasons to use a professional video team. I’ve talked about how much I love the magic moments that you have. I’ve even talked about why you should use video. But what I haven’t talked about is why sometimes video isn’t the answer. As much as it does pay me to say it, video is not always the right answer. Let’s face it, it’s not.

Here are my Top 5 reasons not to use video:

  1. We want to be cool! I think a lot of people want to be a part of the latest greatest what ever is hot, but don’t necessarily consider if the latest greatest is right for them. I mean look how Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have exploded. Everyone wants to be there, but not everyone has taken the time to figure out what it means to them. Most business jumped on the social media bandwagon before develop marketing plans, metrics collection or even a plan of attack. Yes, you may seem that much more hip because you tweet, but if you don’t know how to use it to attract and keep customers, is it really worth the time investment? The same is true for video. Don’t make a video because all the cool kids (or your competitors) are making videos. Make a video because you have something to say and the best way to say it.
  2. My boss says we need it! Great, what about it does he feel you need? Just because his nephew is in film school, or just graduated, and is looking for a paid gig doesn’t make doing a video the best idea. (For my answer on why the nephew may not be the best idea, see the above link on the professional video team). Maybe your boss read an article somewhere saying that video marketing is the best thing since sliced bread doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and the company’s money if you play Devil’s Advocate for a few moments and find out what “We need video” really means.
  3. We want people to be able to see the faces of our staff! Not a bad idea, but not a great idea if your folks aren’t good on camera. Let’s face it, you can’t get much more awkward to watch than someone who is uncomfortable on camera. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to record it, rewrite or relax them, some people just aren’t good on video. Honestly, that’s ok. I would much rather have someone who is awesome with clients and not so good on camera than someone who is terrible on camera but comes off like an award winning actress on camera. Since she’s going to be spending 99.9% or her time with clients let her be awesome at and don’t embarrass her by forcing her to be awkward on camera. If you want your clients to see people’s faces then come up with a clever bio page with photographs of everyone. Chances are everyone will be happier with it in the end.
  4. Cost Outweighs ROI! As much as video folks like me want to do a video for you, it’s got to make sense to your bottom line. Does the cost of the video (even if it’s “free” there are probably staff hours involved) make sense for what you’re going to get out of it? If what you’re spending in dollars, time and/or effort is more than the benefit you’ll get from doing a video, it probably isn’t worth it. Video should be viewed the same as any marketing project. If the cost outweighs the return on that investment, you should rethink the plan. A video should make business sense for you and your organization.
  5. I’m Just Not Comfortable! This one really should be common sense, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing a video then don’t do it. One of the worse things in video is when someone is uncomfortable in the video. But the same goes true if you’re comfortable with the whole process. It only takes one tense person to drag down a project and make everyone else tense. Tense does not good video make.

One last thought….This advice applies to many things in life:  there’s nothing wrong with not be ready for video. Video is better when you wait for the right time and place. Wait until your ready for video, you’ll be glad you did.