I don’t want to, at any point, be drawn into a conversation about being scared of Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Expression – or trying to stop it.
I don’t want to, at any point, be drawn into a conversation that suggests the University of Bath Students’ Union is a ‘nanny union’ or that I, as Students’ Union President am concerned about our reputation.
What I do however want to open up a conversation on is very simple.
Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying in all forms is unacceptable – and that absolutely includes in the online space.
Online spaces, from Facebook to Twitter, Snapchat to Yik Yak, seem to have created a generation of keyboard warriors.
Many individuals online provide excellent commentary, question and criticism of society and the world around them, from political decisions of their Students’ Union to taking action to make our community a better place.
This positive aspect of the online space is in danger however.
It is danger of becoming overcome by a type of individual who fundamentally thinks it is okay to make malicious attacks on individuals for no apparent reason. Malicious attacks fuelled out of nothing more than a desire to ruin people’s lives. At school you might have described yourself as the class clown, someone who played practical jokes to get a laugh, well let’s be honest, you aren’t the class clown are you.
If you are one of those individuals you are the class bully – you’re the class, prize winning idiot who makes others upset, affects mental health and removes dignity from spaces where individuals have the same rights as in face to face conversation.
Well, why don’t we take a moment to have a think about how funny these malicious attacks are?
Calling out individuals for who they are and attacking them is utterly disgusting.
We can start with discrimination, and talk about how racist, sexist, misogynistic and ablest attacks actually break the law, how making attacks based on sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination can actually land you in a criminal court.
Maybe we talk about harassment? We can talk about how making an individual, another student at this University or individual anywhere feel distressed, humiliated or threatened is never okay.
Or how about actually, we really take it back to school playground and talk about bullying.
Social media these days, from Yik Yak and Snap Chat, and ‘Spotted’ to ‘Overheard in…’ simply have become platforms which allow unfounded rumours to spread that ruin people’s lives. Rumours with no facts attached to them, that make people feel vulnerable, isolated and unable to be who they really are.
Every day I receive reports from students asking me to shut down these mediums, asking me to take a stand against the bullies, because it is make them want to leave Bath, and get away from the pressure of having to fit someone else’s perception of ‘normal’.
I myself have faced abuse online, for doing nothing more than my job, and its actually horrific. Students have told me that they get abuse for having to use a wheelchair, for asking a question in class because they don’t understand, or actually for doing nothing apart from being who they are.
That abuse needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.
The problem is, I don’t have that power, and I shouldn’t really even have to think about using it.
So the solution is pretty simple actually, just stop, If you see it, don’t buy into it, share it, or laugh at it, call it out for being the disgusting attack it is.
I do have a question actually which I’d like you to mull on over Christmas.
Social media is one of the most incredible platforms we have for making the world a better place, but right now, we just seem to be use it to make people feel worthless.
So my question to you is, what gives any of us that right?
If you are being affected by anything covered in this blog, please contact any of the following:
Students can also speak with Nightline (the number is on the back of your Library Card), NHS Direct on 111, or the Samaritans on 116123.