Lifestyle

Block, Rinse, Repeat

Ten years ago, I was writing about a new chapter in our lives as a family. My oldest was 5 and starting Kindergarten, my daughter was a toddler, and I hadn’t even entertained the thought of adding a third child to our family! The worries and issues were different and living online was different. I was brand new to Twitter, and the online world was essentially new for all of us. Mommy blogging was as brand new and bright eyed as my babies.

My girls!
(As in most photos I share publicly online, husband and son aren’t in them, at their request.)

Today, I have a son in high school and my daughters (we did add a third baby to our family in 2011) are in grade-school. We’re managing social media with them as we see fit as parents (my teenager has more freedom than my daughters do, with my middle child having only a private IG account and my youngest having no social media). We’re working our way though navigating new friendships, being a good friend and unfortunately have dealt with some bullying via texts towards my daughter this summer (yup, on that private IG account, from boys she thought were friends.)

As a parent, it’s my job to be their voice, their protector, and help them navigate this new world with social media being a part of it. I attacked the bullying issue head on this summer, doing some sleuthing on Facebook and finding the parents of these boys, reaching out directly, and even having a face-to-face conversation with one of them on our front step when dad brought him to apologize in person. I have to ensure I’m modeling good behavior online too, but unfortunately I can’t reach out to parents of online trolls, and the world I live in is a public one online. I deal with trolls often.

Being online and in the media, it’s fun to debate the topics I bring forward on talk radio, and often times I can learn something from the other person or at the very least understand where they’re coming from and appreciate their view. Once in awhile I get a weird tweet from someone (men, it’s almost always men, I’m not sure why just stating what I see) that makes no sense at all. 5 years ago, I’d reply to the person, but I realized that only feeds the ego. I’d hesitate to block because I didn’t want to be that person who “wasn’t strong enough to withstand the criticism.” I’ve since realized that blocking someone has nothing to do with withstanding criticism and everything to do with being strong enough to know who you are and what you’ll tolerate.

This tweet was from a local SK guy after I tweeted a photo of me in a TV segment for a food brand. After looking at his profile, it was clear he had a theme. Tweet after tweet of insults thrown at women in media, mostly here in Saskatchewan but a few at TSN. “Horse face”, “Ugly”, “Fat”. I blocked.

Last week, a tweet came after my weekly radio segment on 980 CJME “What The Friday”. A listener had called in disagreeing with me, and I tweeted about how I loved hearing that – that public discussion and commentary and debate is what the show, and talk radio, is all about and it’s a good thing. The tweet in response was three words, “Get over yourself.” Again, I looked at his timeline, saw that his joy on Twitter came from arguing with and slinging insults at people, and blocked. Then this tweet followed:

Sort of like Nelson Muntz on The Simpsons, many online trolls will laugh and point at the person who blocked them. It’s a typical response, but a humorous one. Correct. You are blocked. Bye.

This has been my advice to my kids as well. A block online is like putting your hand up in the face of the bully confronting you on the playground. It’s a flat out NO. You don’t get to talk to me like that, in fact, you don’t get to talk to or see me at all.

But consider this. The age of the people who have been mean to me and others online are very likely in my age range. And that means they have kids. If they don’t have kids, they have nieces and nephews, friends with children.

What the hell are we teaching our children if this is how grown adults behave? I worry. Do people who are unhinged online behave like that in their day to day lives? Do men who tweet “ugly”, “fat”, to women have wives? Mothers?

The majority of these accounts online are anonymous. Fake names. It means I could be standing in front of one of these people in line at the grocery store. But it also means that he could be your best friend. Your coworker.

If the account isn’t anonymous, if there’s a loud and proud name attached – what would you do if you saw this behavior online from someone you know in real life? Would you call them out on it? Distance yourself? I have.

The only way we can even hope to stop behavior like this is by calling it out when we know the person, and in my opinion simply blocking their access to you when you don’t know them. I can’t call a troll’s dad after finding them online, have an adult discussion, and witness an apology for stupid behavior. Our kids are in for one hell of a journey in the years ahead with social media, and it’s all I can do to stand behind them and help guide them when I’m unsure myself where we’re going.

33 Comments

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  • If I know the person fairly well, I’ll call them out on their BS. Most of the time it’s not even worth the effort because people are so narrow-minded. Bye!

  • oh my gosh! people can be SOOOO cruel. I experienced it a lot of my twitter when i was posting certain things about my daughter who is autistic. they just feed of the hurt the bring on to people. you are smart for just blocking them. no one needs that in their life

  • I would distance myself and I would block. You can’t fix stupid.
    I believe that you made the right choice in calling the parents of the bullies I would have done the same They should not get away with that behavior as; What’s next.
    Hopefully now they will think twice before bullying someone else.

  • People can be so cruel and I find it is people who are insecure. No sense arguing with them it just gets them going just block them.

  • You handled that bullying very well and it is sometimes surprising that there is just as much bullying with adults as there is with kids.

  • What may be happening on social media is also happening in face to face interactions. I am always amazed that someone will say something rude and hurtful to your face without even a moment’s hesitation. In real life it is best to avoid or “block” them.

  • It’s sad how there are people out there who have this feeling that online bullying is okay.

    These folks seem to find a sick sense of safety/power behind the screen of their computer/phone to spew garbage, that I am sure they wouldn’t dare say in ‘real life’.

    I have to say, I feel sorry for kids growing up in this age of social media. I cannot imagine the pressure it puts on them.

  • I find that they can now hide behind the computer screen and victimize more person! When my son was in grade one he was being bully by another child at school. I had talk to the teacher and nothing happened. One morning I went in and told the teacher if they didn’t do nothing about it I would find out who the parent of that child was and talk to them. I would not let my child getting bully everyday! She inform me that it was a school matter (that was 25 years ago) and they would take care of it. I said good because if he gets bully today I would get involve as we are talking about my child so it isn’t just a school matter and . It stop!

  • I really don’t understand what people get out of being insulting anonymously, are they too scared of being caught out? Must be or they would put their name up front. I luckily don’t know anyone who does this, at least I don’t think I do. Where on earth has politeness gone. My mother always used to say “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” That is also the way I handle it, I always try to avoid being insulting to someone, that’s just not nice and I wouldn’t like it done to me either. One of my daughters suffered bullying at school, big time. I talked to the head master about it and the class teacher, it turns out the girl and her friends were well known for it. They’d even talked to her parents but to no avail. The solution was the girl was moved to another class and I breathed a breath of relief as did my daughter.

  • These are good parenting tips, it sounds a lot like the way my brother and sister-in-law are raising my sweet two year old niece!

  • Online trolls are the worst. 90% of them don’t have a profile picture because they’re cowards and enjoy hiding behind a screen. I actually feel sorry them. Only a miserable person would get satisfaction out of hurting others. I wish nothing but therapy and zero social media accounts in their futures. Oh and by the way, you’ve always been a pretty lady.

  • I love the message you are sending here and will teach my kids some of these tools to help as well! Sometimes I think we are too polite in the face of being bullied!

  • It’s true that a lot of the online trolls do hide behind an anonymous facade. I appreciate your way of handling the bullying your daughter received.
    There is too much hatred and too many mean people in the world. I hate to think how tough it is going to be for future generations online.

  • There have always, been trolls. Before social media it was called “gossip” and “what are the neighbours going to think.” Social media just puts it all out there.

  • Well written and well said. I’m sorry you have to put up with brainless people. I give my kids the same advice. Distance yourself from toxic people. Have a great day.

  • Why spend your time and energy on negative thoughts, words and actions? We all could use a refresher in manners, respect and treating each other as we would like be treated.

    l

  • Happens far too often. As a teacher, I deal with the fallout of online stuff daily. It affects our kids in so many ways (and they can’t escape it!). It’s so important to monitor your kids accounts and talk to them about what’s going on. My kids aren’t old enough for their own accounts yet, but when they are, I will be sure to help them navigate the online world,

  • It’s truly shocking how grown adults act online. There’s is nothing wrong with people commenting on a difference in opinion, but those comments were straight up mean and I agree to block people who’s intent is to be hurtful. Less toxicity, more positivity!!

  • People are the worst. Ignore and block the haters/trolls when you can. Bullying is not ok. It’s really sad that people think they can act this way, online or not.

  • Oh my that’s awful. I cannot believe how cruel people can be and for what? Maybe to make themselves feel better? Thanks for sharing this post.

  • I can’t believe what some people out there write on social media. They hide behind an anonymous handle and spew out hatred. It’s really sad and hurtful.

  • I totally agree with blocking bullies and distancing myself from these types of people. I generally don’t call anyone out on those types of behavior anymore because, from my experience, toxic people rarely change their behavior.

  • It can be tough, but as long as you know in your heart you are doing good, then you need to ignore the negative. Chances are they are unhappy and jealous.

  • It is sad that people see the need to make hurtful comments to others anywhere and especially online. The latest I saw that bothered me were about the winner of America’s Got Talent. He was wonderful on the show and such a strong example to others that handicaps don’t have to hold you back. While most comments were beautiful and encouraging a few saw the need to put him down. Online bullies suck!!! Sorry to hear you had to deal with it too.