I’m upset tonight. And I need to get it out or it will just fester and make me angry, which will then just move into depression, and I can do without that shit.
Again tonight I’ve been confronted with another piece of ridicule towards a complete stranger on the internet. I know, I know, it’s not like it’s a rare thing on the internet right? There are hundreds of websites devoted to posting pictures of complete strangers for the purpose of ridiculing them. But sometimes it just gets too much for me to just ignore, to just scroll past or click through.
Every day, when I go to Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, or various other social networking sites, people who I care about, people who are my friends, share posts of the kind that just rip my heart to pieces. You know those sites, I’m not going to link to them. The ones of people at Walmart, or people’s party photos. There’s one about people’s fashion/clothing choices. Another about “ugly people”. There’s one about weddings as well. All those sites where users can upload pictures they’ve taken on their cell phones, or worse, that they’ve stolen off someone’s Facebook or Flickr, just for the purpose of ridicule.
I don’t go to those sites because I find them offensive. I also know what it’s like to have been the victim of that sort of bullshit. I’ve had my photo taken in public and shared around for the purpose of ridicule. I’ve also had pics stolen off my Facebook (before I locked it down) and my Flickr, that were put on websites where people ridiculed me for being fat, being ugly, not being feminine enough.
But the really heartbreaking thing is that I don’t need to go to those sites. Because people I know, people who care about me and would NEVER dream of posting a photo of me like that, share pictures of strangers for the purpose of ridicule, right there on their profiles. I know, I know, “Unfriend” or “Unfollow” you say. But what do I do when it’s people I care about? And LOTS of people? If I unfriended or unfollowed every one who does it, my Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and such would be almost empty. Because so many people do it.
I saw this post on Tumblr the other day (and reblogged it) because it really struck a chord with me. Yes, it’s about a fat person. But the issue is not just about fat people. It’s about people who dress “weird”. It’s about people who look “funny”. It’s about guys who aren’t “masculine enough” and women who aren’t “feminine enough”. It’s about anyone who is outside of the norm. All of those people are at risk of having their photo secretly taken or stolen from their own site for the purpose of ridicule.
It makes me think of the Doors song, “People are Strange”:
People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone
Because that’s how it is, isn’t it? When you know someone, you see past the outside shell. You see their sense of humour, or intelligence, or their kindness. You see them for who they really are, complex beings that have strengths and weaknesses, and when you know them and/or care for them, you don’t see the things that strangers might notice as first impressions. But when you’re a stranger, when you don’t know someone, you don’t have that depth of perspective, and there’s that disconnect to their feelings and thoughts.
How many times have you met someone and then as you got to know them, suddenly discovered or grew to realise that they’re wonderful, that they’re beautiful, that they’re awesome?
People who are strangers do look different, foreign, other. It’s human nature, because we don’t have any emotional or intellectual connect with them. But just because they are anonymous, doesn’t give anyone the right to ridicule them, not even with the anonymity of the internet.
Now I’m not trying to be holier than thou. I’ve seen people and thought they looked weird, or dressed odd, or whatever. In the past, I made the mistake of voicing that – never to them, but to my friends. But I’ve learnt the hard way, through personal experience, it’s not cool. It’s not the right thing to do. I try to ask myself now “Is this person hurting anyone?” If the answer is no… then it’s none of my damn business how they look. The second question I ask myself is “How would I feel if I knew someone was judging me like that?” It forces you to have a good hard think about your attitudes towards other people.
It’s also the problem of the culture of the paparazzi fed media too – because photographers stalk celebrities for candid shots of them, which then get splashed all over magazines and the papers and the internet, there is this mentality that everyday people can just whip out their camera phones and take a shot of someone any time they like too and do what they like with it. It’s not ok. Just because someone is in public doesn’t make them public property.
What I ask is that for anyone who shares these kinds of pictures on their Tumblr, their Facebook, their Twitter, or any other website, do you really want to be that person? How would you feel if you suddenly met the person in that photograph, and saw how seeing their picture up being ridiculed on the internet made them feel? Would you feel good about your part in that? What if it was you? What if it was one of your loved ones? Would you feel ok about seeing them hurt by the actions of strangers?
I know how I feel. Strangers might be strange. But they’re still people.