Earlier this week two girls in Florida were charged in a case of a young teen who killed herself after a series of hateful texts and continued harassment from her peers. It is rare to see charges pressed against people in cases like this, but it is becoming more common as the victims and their family speak out against such abuse.
In the age of social media, bullying has strayed from the school yard to the digital world – a place where victims are more exposed than ever. It’s becoming harder to ignore the verbal taunts when the world at large is able to weigh in, in defense or continued harassment of the people being picked up. And once those words are out on the Internet, it is hard to make them go away. And it’s not like the bullying stops when you turn into an adult.
On Facebook a page has popped up targeting overweight costumers. While only a scant number of people have “liked” the page since it was created in July, it’s now making the rounds on the Internet as yet another example of bullying in a community that is rife with sexual harassment and trolling. The page has a disclaimer, stating “EVERYTHING POSTED HERE IS A JOKE, AND IF YOU THINK ANY WORD HERE IS SERIOUS YOU ARE A FOOL. Disclaimer for you, curvy ladies.” – though it’s obvious the intention is anything but humorous.
Update: As of 1:57ET it appears the page in question has been removed by Facebook.
Several people have reported this page to Facebook, but it seems the company chooses to ignore the harmful and hateful intentions of the community. After being prompted by a friend of mine to report it myself, I was met with a response from Facebook telling me that they found nothing that violates their Community Standards. We can’t insult people based on race, gender or sexuality, but according to Facebook, it’s okay to pick on people who are deemed overweight. Even though Facebook’s own Community Standards states that they will now allow bullying or harassment on their pages:
Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.
There is never a case where it is okay to pick on someone and belittle them to further your own amusement. This is not a case of satire or sarcasm – it’s just being mean. With social media being as prominent as it is, it’s nearly impossible to escape from bullying. Once it reaches the web, it feels as if the person is under constant scrutiny, that there is no safe place to hide.
One of the long-standing tropes of nerd life is that, at some point, all of us have been picked on and bullied for being an outcast. I find that to be less and less true with the younger generations, and also liking comic books and anime is now a “cool” thing. But, you can’t deny that a group of people has cropped up who feel the need to tear down their fellow fan. It’s most prevalent in the cosplay community, where people are constantly judged for putting themselves out there simply for dressing up as their favorite character. In a community that is supposed to be about celebrating our love for a genre, it often devolves into a handful of people who feel the need to say hurtful and cruel words to justify some warped view of what the world should consist of.
The sexually explicit comments, the derogatory statements about a person’s weight or race, and the the simple act of calling someone out for being a fan needs to stop. Both in our fan community and as a society. Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but what right does a person have to share that opinion if it causes harm to another person? It is a question I long to ask every person who has ever told a person they are wrong or disgusting for being something different from the norm. And companies like Facebook should shoulder some responsibility to make sure people have a safe place to go on social media. No one is asking for the Internet police, but if you are going to hold a policy of community standards, it should include an outright ban on all harassing and harmful groups and pages.
As of 1:57ET it appears the page in question has been removed by Facebook.