We got our first hate mail message at Peer Social this week. Frankly, I’m surprised it has taken this long. I would have thought we would get some hate mail before we got banned from Twitter. I don’t know what is worse, getting graphically abused and threatened by a complete stranger or the fact that I am surprised it took so long? Regardless, it happened—so now what do I do?
Add fuel to the ire?
I have to admit my first instinct was to call out this jerk directly and share his post with all of you. I was mad, I still am. I wanted to heap piles of public shame on this guy from the lofty heights of my soapbox, but I realized that this was just going to add fuel to his fire. Someone who would decide to use a contact form with his real email address, from his personal domain, was not someone to be trifled with.
Besides, responding to someone who trolls you online or via a contact form is looking to pick a fight, pure and simple. Deciding not to take the bait was a bitter pill to swallow but it is probably the best thing to do. Fighting with someone who sends hate mail is not going to get you anywhere but deeper under the bridge with the rest of the Trolls.
Ignorance is bliss
Friends advised me to ignore the message and move on. “Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he got under your skin” was the advice I was given by someone who works with social media. “It happens to me almost every day,” he said. What? You work on social media platforms and get abused by losers for just doing your job? Is it just me or is that completely crazy?
Isn’t social media supposed to be about connecting people? What happened to a friendly debate between people as a means of fostering learning? They called it the enlightenment a few hundred years ago and it led to useful things like Democracy, Medicine, and Scientific discovery. Since when did having a different opinion become an excuse to target someone for abuse?
Follow the Money
I chose not to give this idiot any share of my limelight but I also could not let it go. So I decided to meet in the middle and write this post in the hopes that there is still a chance to save the Internet. When the Internet was made available, we were told it would allow us to connect with people from all over the world, with diverse backgrounds and varied opinions. The Internet was a platform for people to meet and exchange ideas in the hopes that enlightened dialogue could, in some small way, bring people together.
Instead, the Internet has given way to social media platforms owned by private corporations, hell-bent on making boat-loads of money at any cost. They learned early on that the path to riches was paved with our attention—the longer we stare at their newsfeeds, the more ads they can bombard us with and in turn, the more money they make. Coincidently, they also discovered that it is easier to get our attention with hate and misinformation than it is with civility and education.
So the path to riches for people like Mark Zuckerberg has been paved with moderators with PTSD and verbally abused users. Not even George Orwell could have envisioned a more dystopian future for the Internet. Yet it is here and it is time we all did something about it.
This whole hate mail thing has made me realize that this is not the Internet I signed up for. It is not the Internet envisioned by its creators, and it is not the Internet we deserve. Now, more than ever, it is time to double down on decentralization and restore the peer-to-peer Internet that was envisioned by people like Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It’s time for each of us to take back control of the Internet, to be in charge of our social media—this will make it much easier to create barriers between ourselves and the trolls of the world. Less hate mail, more love.