The Internet is a Cruel Place

We’ve all seen those pictures, maybe we’ve all shared them and we’ve definitely all laughed at them (me included.) You know the pictures I’m talking about – the ones of a person either ugly, fat, in a compromising position, passed out drunk, etc with a funny caption disguised as a meme or labeled just as a “funny” pic.

I don’t share these types of pics often, but I know I’m not blameless either. I see them on a daily basis though. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I think of the person in the picture and wonder if they know they are the subject of ridicule. I saw one in my news feed today of a woman with crooked drawn-in eyebrows. My immediate reaction was laugh and of disgust at how horrifying she looked. But that humor, immediately turned into disgust for MYSELF. I was a person that was always harassed about my looks, so aren’t I just as bad for judging another person by their looks? Have I gone from the ‘bullied’ to just another mean girl?

Then, everything clicked for me after reading this article today.

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/02/my_embarrassing_picture_went_viral/

Please read the link – it really is powerful, but to summarize: a woman, Caitlin Seida, shared a picture of herself in a Lara Croft Tomb Raider Halloween costume. Since she’s overweight due to a medical condition, the picture was labelled ‘Fridge Raider‘ and shared on various sites (including Reddit) without her permission.

First off, this is a scary lesson about internet privacy–check those privacy settings, people! But more than just that, my heart breaks for this woman. This could have happened to me and it could have happened to someone I love. Scary thought, right? We don’t always think about the human in the picture because in the back of our minds, we feel that the person is subject to such ridicule because they put the picture out there for the world to see. But what about the people that DIDN’T put these pictures out for the world? What about the ones that have the pictures taken from them because they wanted to share a moment with their friends and family?

I frequently tell my husband that I’m glad I grew up during the 90s. The bullying was bad enough to handle at school but at least coming home was my safe haven and an escape from the abuse. I’m so glad I didn’t have to come home to girls harassing me online, putting up pictures of me, and telling me that I should kill myself. But even still, the bullying from ADULTS is just as bad, if not worse because we should know better. I sometimes post on different message boards and blogs and I’m always surprised at the cruel words that people type while hiding behind anonymity. Did our common courtesy–“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”–just go out the window or is it just that our filter has lessened because we’re so exposed to this cruel, “say anything” type of universe that the world wide web has become?

I, for one, don’t want to be a part of this world. Maybe it’s naive, but I like to see the positive. I like to think about the paying it forward, the nice words that people say, and the true love that still exists today. Although Caitlin had to learn a very painful lesson, I want to thank her for teaching all of us a lesson too. Maybe if we all start to think about our individual online presence, we can make the web a beautiful place once again.

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