Evanson: Social media cesspool shouldn't be tolerated
Oregon women's basketball player Sedona Prince made news — and tsunami-sized waves — this past week when a video she posted on Twitter displaying the vast differences between what had been provided the women opposed to what had been provided the men by the NCAA at this year's basketball tournaments, went viral.
But while quite obviously egregious and even more egregiously tone-deaf on behalf of the NCAA, what got even more of my attention was a message tweeted by Prince's Oregon teammate Taylor Chavez a day later.
Chavez took to Twitter with a message regarding the "gender-based hate" the junior guard frequently receives by way of social media, primarily that from men, as related to her affiliation with a sport dominated by men.
She notes an understanding that online abuse is different from rape, sexual assault, or other forms of gender-based violence, but also notes that the "same norms and power structures underpin these acts."
She also didn't ask for sympathy, but rather hoped for an acknowledgement that the existence of such behavior further fuels gender-based violence and discrimination against women.
It was what I would deem a mature response to what can only be described as immature — but far too common — behavior.
Social media, while somewhat valuable and cheaply entertaining, has become the virtual arena for the physically spineless. It allows you to tease, taunt, insult, and even threaten people under a cloak of relative anonymity. Everyone is tough, many more are rude, and likely more than that are disrespectful in a truly childish — but harmful — way.
It's many times been said that "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Nothing could be further from the truth.
In one's formative years, repeated insults can lead to shame, insecurity, depression, anger, fear and scarring that can last a lifetime. It doesn't become insignificant as an adult.
According to the website Psychology Today, one mental advocate says adults can be worse than children and teens when it comes to online harassment, and that two out of five young adults have been or are cyberbullied. Additionally, it's not just young adults that find themselves victimized, but that a significant percentage of adults between the ages 46-66, too, have experienced harassment online — meaning much of what's being perpetrated is not by those who don't know better, but rather by those who do.
So what in the heck is going on?
Many point to jealousy in attempts to describe abhorrent social media behavior. They'll talk about money, celebrity or good looks as triggers for internet trolls, almost justifying it by a means of explanation. But even if you use human nature to reason away such despicable acts, it doesn't make what's happening to people like Chavez any easier to understand.
She's not rich, by no means a celebrity, and as a women's college basketball player with less than 6,000 Twitter followers, an "influencer" she ain't. But in her case or even yours or mine, any social media post will be met with the type of shoot-to-kill response that can only leave right-minded individuals shaking their heads.
What makes this phenomenon particularly odd is that many of those acting out in the impersonal cyberworld, wouldn't consider acting in a similar manner in an atmosphere of reality. They're often educated people, people with good jobs, wives, kids, people who love them, and a mother who'd have had a bar of soap at the ready if and when their grown-up child had acted similarly in their youth.
It's odd, but in a way that's as concerning as it is interesting — and it needs to change.
When it comes to social media, people who typically care don't. People who normally think tend not to. And people with hearts far too often check them at the door. Chavez doesn't seem okay with it, so why are we?
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