Online Shaming: A Virtual Playground For Adults

As cliché as it may sound, the best advice is what you've been taught years ago, but now you must implement it through your digital lives. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
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Online shaming is a trend that has not only gone viral, it's became so normal that many are immune to digital cruelty and attacks.

What's not normal is that the cyber-attacks are being made by adults. We aren't talking about youth anymore. These are adults that should know better and need to grow up.

In a 2014 survey by PEW Research Center, 73% of American adults have witnessed online abuse while 40% have been victims of it.

We're used to reading about cyberbullying with teens and kids, but it's time to start talking to the adults. If parents and adults are acting like children online, it's hard to expect different behavior from their kids.

Starting at the top.

Celebrities have a platform, but they also have feelings.

Just because they have the ability to address the trolls and their trash-talk, it doesn't mean they deserve it.

I applaud public figures who step up and use their voices (keypads) to empower social justice online. They have the ability to do this, whereas the average person doesn't. I'm sure the average "Joe" wouldn't have @Jack (Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter) reaching out to them personally, as we saw with Leslie Jones after her cyber-war on Twitter.
We witnessed Leslie Jones, actress and comedian, combat the troll-trash on Twitter. She said she felt like she was in a personal hell and begged for help.

Jennifer Aniston had enough, after social media leeches' cyber-gossip spiraled out of control. She finally wrote, "For The Record," to set it straight. "I'm fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of 'journalism,' the 'First Amendment' and 'celebrity news.'"

Ariel Winter, actress on Modern Family, has been fighting the constant online hate and body-shaming. When she graduated this year, she celebrated in a beautiful dress she posted a picture of online. Immediately, critics posted negative comments. Ariel quickly jumped in and addressed her troll-trashers:

"Dear sorry body-shamers, I looked HOT in that dress, And if you hate it, don't buy it. But please get a hobby. XOXO Ariel #EmbraceYourBody."

Amy Schumer is another actress and comedian that has learned to address trolls head-on. As the trolls typically take aim at Amy with body-shaming, she hits back by getting ahead of them, as she did on her vacation in Hawaii:

I meant to write 'good morning trolls!' I hope you find some joy in your lives today in a human interaction and not just in writing unkind things to a stranger you've never met who triggers something in you that makes you feel powerless and alone.

These celebrities all have been targets of cyber-bullets and have been able to empower others with their words of wisdom and encouragement. The average person can't engage with trolls like famous people can. As we saw with the Leslie Jones incident on Twitter, it inflamed a cyber-war that took a long time to burn out. The fact that people were finally removed from Twitter after this incident was a positive ending.

Average adults acting badly.

Christopher Wimmer (33) and Kayla Renee Dubois (24) in Florida were two paramedics having a competition: who could take the most disturbing shots of unconscious patients being transported to the hospital. These are grown adults, whose jobs were to care for others, playing this sick game. These paramedics invaded the privacy of patients going to the hospital by taking 'selfies' with them. According to NBC station WJHG, the paramedics purportedly shared some of the photos and videos with other EMS and non-EMS personnel.

Investigators initially identified 41 victims. Their biggest fear was of these images being leaked on social media, which can happen very quickly.

Dani Mathers
, a Playboy model, felt compelled to take a photo of a naked woman in her gym locker room she deemed unflattering and sent it to a friend with a message via Snapchat, "If I can't unsee this, then you can't either."

Unfortunately for Mathers, this message wasn't only sent to her friend, it's now global and Dani Mathers is not only out of a job and a gym -- she is being investigated by the LAPD because photographing someone naked, without their consent, in a private place, and posting their image online for everyone to see is illegal.

She later issued an apology online, saying the photo was supposed to be a personal conversation with a girlfriend. I'm assuming she doesn't realize that no matter whether this conversation was personal (private) or global, it was cruel.

Make no mistake about it, the rise of shame nation is spreading across the Internet on a daily basis, and sadly the leaders are grown-ups.

Steps to turn this around (at all ages):

1) Use your keyboard responsibly, never share in haste. There is no rewind online, what goes online, stays online. You're temporary emotional will live a lifetime in cyberspace. Especially if you are sending a sensitive email (or any email at all), be prepared for it to go viral at anytime. Remember what happened to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as her emails were leaked and she was no longer able to speak at the convention.

2) Text with care. Many times, communication not only gets lost in translation online, people of different generations don't always understand what is being said in text lingo or emoji meanings and words can be misconstrued. Hurt feelings can quickly arise and friendships lost.

3) If you see someone being harassed online, reach out to them with support, publicly or in a private message. Report the trolls and the abusive content. The worst part about being harmed online is the thought you are alone.

4) Learn to leave constructive comments, not combative. A few years ago, major sites like Huffington Post decided to put an end to people who wanted to post anonymously, and Popular Science and Motherboard did away with comments all together. Why? Because adults couldn't behave themselves online. Your words reflect on your character.

5) As cliché as it may sound, the best advice is what you've been taught years ago, but now you must implement it through your digital lives. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." In today's world, simply click out. You won't have to worry about hacked emails or WikiLeaks exposing something months or years later.

Takeaway tips:

•The TOS or Code of Conduct on social media platforms will list what constitutes abuse, harassment and other forms of cyberbullying including hate speech. Refer to it when you report a troll or online abuse.
•Although celebrities and public figures address trolls, it's usually not wise for people to engage in cyber-wars. There are organizations and resources to help people that are being harassed online.
•We need to educate both adults and youth on digital etiquette, citizenship, and literacy. Learn more at Cyberwise through CyberCivics.
•Adult online bullying is not new, but recognizing that we can now step in and turn it around is. It only takes one person at a time, and each of us can be that difference.

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