Twitter is, in fact, losing active users. The number one reason proposed by the Harvard Business Review is none other than bullying and hate. The hate that has been spewed across our social media this last while has been appalling. Hidden behind anonymity or the idea that you are just speaking to a pool of computers, rather than people with actual feelings, has resulted in “harassment, abuse, bullying, intimidation, threats – a ceaseless flickering hum of low-level emotional violence”. Yes, some people are oversensitive, but some of the things that have been said are just not on. Actively avoiding it has been my only way not to end up super sensitive, negative, and critical of the situations at hand. My greatest concern is, in an environment where “everything kinda goes” and there aren’t many repercussions (or often none at all, if you remain anonymous), this kind of behaviour becomes not just acceptable but the norm, online and in real life.
This last week and a bit has seen heartbreaking violence across the country and at UP inflicted upon students, workers and facilities. Students (who should be intellectuals able to engage in critical discussions) and adults (in the form of leadership and security, who should know better) ended up in physical altercations with others. I’m not pointing fingers at any one group or even individuals. There are enough fingers being pointed already.
I get that people are angry, and I get that people are desperate to be heard on issues that have hurt them for years. If you look deep into the issues, their anger is justifiable. But more than ever, it is imperative that we find a way forward that creates inclusive, effective, quality education for everyone so that all are given the opportunity to understand their work and be understood. But I do worry that what happens on social media exacerbates what happens in real life.
I’ll leave you with a thought that I’ve had all week. Just like schoolyard bullies, you cannot truly remove your insecurities or validate your culture, your view, your argument, or your identity by undermining those who oppose you with violent actions and words that break your opponent down. Sure, that will upset them and temporarily knock them down, but it facilitates no forward progression for yourself. Rather focus on what makes your culture, view, argument or identity valuable and important. Once you’ve identified the value in it, discuss it and listen to the views of those that disagree with you. You might find that you have something in common – all cultures, languages, and people are valuable and therefore deserve to be recognised, respected and treated equally. Let’s start a discussion that acknowledges that and creates a plan that facilitates that, rather than one that breaks and divides.

Have a peaceful week.

Michal

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