With technology, hate speech and online cruelty is magnified. No one escapes it, from youth to millennials to adults, and especially celebrities can become trapped in the armpit of the dark web of narcissist trolls.
Celebrities may receive the brunt of online attacks, but they have the option of using their star power to shame their shamers right back. Comedian and actress Margaret Cho spoke in an Observer article about taking a specific action that she dubs “hate shame.”
People often say, “Oh, don’t feed the trolls.” I screenshot what they say, report it, and I’ll send it to their employers, their spouses—things of that nature, where you’re calling attention to the hatred and cutting it off at the same time with immediate hate shame. If you hate shame, it automatically forces them to revisit the hatred they’re spewing, that can be potentially very damaging. And using it against them—as opposed to internalizing the trolling and feeling uncomfortable with it—it’s a good opportunity to stand up for yourself and also bring reverence to the kind of racism, misogyny, and homophobia that these people perpetuate. We should all practice this type of self-defense. - Margaret Cho
As a person with star muscle and someone that does has a strong presence, Cho is able to take on her shamers, whereas many average people would typically only fuel the fire of trolls and possibly create a gang-like mentality of more attacks.
The gender factor
There's no denying that some women can be catty, especially online on topics ranging from parent shaming to baby shaming, and even hair shaming. However, a recent study published in the journal of Computers in Human Behavior showed that men are more likely to be internet trolls than women because they showed a higher level of narcissism.
The study found that men are more motivated to use Facebook as a way to "show off," "be mean," or "badmouth people," whereas women often use social networking to feel more connected with others.
Narcissists are people who are excessively self-interested and callous. They have no concern for anybody or anything that doesn't involve them. Trolling online is a way for narcissists to let out the unpleasant sides of their personality.
Although this is interesting, we can't ignore that under the right circumstances, according to the Stanford University study, anyone can be a troll.
Our failure to instill empathy has created a cruel culture
Just because someone is famous, it doesn't give us a right to inflict malicious and hurtful comments towards them. “Stars have to develop a thick skin,” says publicist Howard Bragman in Shame Nation, founder of the Hollywood PR machine Fifteen Minutes. “We live in polarized times and everybody’s got an opinion.” How does he help his celebrity clients get through the dreck? “I try to keep them away, not let them read the crap. It’s writing on the bathroom wall.”
Turning it around
In her bestselling book UnSelfie, Dr. Michele Borba lays out nine specific ways that we can revitalize empathy in the upcoming generation and in ourselves. We can work to improve the ability to recognize emotions in others, instill a moral code to become a caring person, and learn to take on another person’s perspective.
With greater empathy and compassion, it should be impossible to leave cruel comments. To get started, let’s adapt Dr. Borba’s four-step method, which she calls CARE, toward how we approach posting online.
C = Call Attention to Uncaring. Did you notice that there was an ugly comment on someone’s post? Was it about you? Talk about it.
A = Assess How Uncaring Affects Others. Was your teen a victim of a cruel comment, or were you? Discuss how this made you feel.
R = Repair the Hurt and Require Reparation. Did you or your teen write a comment that hurt someone (even if you didn’t mean to)? Immediately delete that comment, apologize, and contact the person personally.
E = Express Disappointment and Stress Caring Expectations. We’re all human, and we’re going to make mistakes. It’s what we learn from them that matters. Be a caring and kind role model at all ages.
What will you do the next time you see hate online?