Bullying from Afar

bulliesThe growth of social media has been a great thing. It allows for information to be delivered quickly and to a wide audience. It has also allowed people in the public eye (celebrities, athletes, etc.) to become more accessible, creating a greater interaction between fans and the public figures. However social media has also created a monster….it has become the new playground for bullies.

Anyone familiar on message boards or with social media knows the trend, these people are called trolls. Their whole agenda is stir up a reaction online by posting ridiculous, often vulgar comments. This week these trolls were called out by former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling.

Last week Schilling posted on Twitter how proud he was of his daughter for signing to play softball at the college level. He was a proud parent and wanted to share how excited he was for his daughter, as any parent would and should. However several people decided that they wanted to “troll” Schilling’s news about his daughter. I will not post what these people (two individuals in particular) said because it was extremely vulgar.

Often the trolls are looking to get a rise out of individuals, well their wish was granted as Curt Schilling called out the trolls and then proceeded to write a post on his website regarding the entire situation. (To read Schilling’s post click HERE) Schilling, with the help of the internet, was able to find out all the information he need on these two individuals. One was a radio show host at a community college and the other a Vice President of a fraternity. Schilling’s post quickly gained national attention and two days later the two individuals were relieved of their duties.

While the story was unfortunate for the Schilling family I do hope that it raises the awareness of bullying. Social Media for all of its benefits has escalated the bullying problem. People today hide behind their avatars, with no consequences to face because they do not personally know the people they often are “trolling”. These trolls are even worse than those who bully in person because they simply hide behind their computers, never having to face the other person face-to-face. I seriously doubt any of these trolls would have the guts to say what they do to professional athletes in person. Social Media and the internet has given the bullies a safety net.

There is nothing wrong with having a discussion on social media with someone you do not agree with on a topic. I have had plenty of disagreements online with others. However when one resorts to name calling, vulgarity, or attacking the person instead of staying on topic…that is not funny, it is not creative, it IS bullying.

Another story this week, while not in the sports world, regarding bullying occurred. A local politician, Tom Schweich, committed suicide and a close friend, John Danforth, states it was due to anti-religious comments and political ads comparing Schweich to Barney Fife. I have heard some defend the comments saying they weren’t that bad. But I think what often gets overlooked in bullying that just because a comment may not affect one person it does not mean it won’t affect another.

There is no need for bullying, whether it is in person or on the internet. Discussions and disagreements are good to have and can stimulate the mind. However when the talk takes a turn towards name calling, vulgarity, or personal attacks then you have entered the realm of bullying. I understand the right to free speech, people can speak their mind. But when you direct your message and comments at others, then it is no longer free speech. While it is likely a near impossible task to moderate all online comments hopefully Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites will begin to eliminate this bullying culture by suspending these trolls. The trolls and bullies make their remarks to get attention and a rise out of people. Well I think it is time we give them all of the attention they want by calling them out. Let’s see what happens when their comments, which are typically kept to online forums, are brought out into the public light; where their family, friends, co-workers and bosses can see. It is time to stop bullying.

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