While Jacinda Ardern fights the good fight in France over the perils of social media, I see this very week, we still have a problem with online vitriol here at home.
The most recent casualty, a small pony business in Nelson. The business offers treks and pony rides for kids birthday parties.
The owner had ridden ponies as a child and wanted other children to be able to experience the pleasure. She said she’d taken on horses that no one else wanted or that were destined for dog food, but are now well cared for. She said she always led kids at a walking pace on them.
Nevermind any of those facts, an anonymous online commenter decided from one photo, that one of her ponies looked too thin and thus began a tirade of abuse against the business, accusing the owner of neglect, abuse and starvation.
The one comment quickly turned into hundreds and the owner was digitally crucified and left distraught.
So distraught she says she hasn’t stopped crying since. Her daughter was too worried and upset to attend school.
The business owner called a vet and the SPCA and got proof her horses were not neglected and in fact in “remarkably good health.” But the Facebook page which had vilified her, refused to remove their criticism and nasty comments.
Because again, why let the facts get in the way of a good online bashing?
Not only that, the administrator of the Facebook page who’d attacked her, said she hoped the woman’s business collapsed, and that she didn’t give a “F***”.
This sort of online abuse, to the point where someone is left distraught and closing their business, is an example of an all too common culture where we seek to cancel people online. To run them out of town and demean them.
The same is happening internationally with beauty bloggers you’ve probably never heard of but your pre-teen will have, James Charles and Tati Westbrook. They are YouTube famous makeup gurus who’ve had a falling out.
Sides have been taken, and James Charles bled over 3 million subscribers over it.
Punishment and killing a person’s following is the currency du jour. Don’t like it? Cancel them.
We can’t just look away, we have to see them vilified and marched out of town.
Mistakes are no longer permitted.
Jobs are lost, livelihoods cancelled, people buried under a mudslide of hateful comments.
We’ve just had a bullying report in this country citing how much damage is done to kids in schools by this kind of behaviour, trust me, it’s a lot worse online and online is the world our kids exist in these days.
So what sort of an example is a grown adult, like this woman attacking a pony ride business, setting?
How on earth can we expect better for our kids, or teach them about how to be respectful online, when this kind of blind trash talking still exists?