I have met some of the most generous and wonderful people online and have learned so much from them by mutually sharing ideas, successes and failures.
People like Shel Israel, Katie Paine, Geoff Livingston, Shel Holtz, Beth Kanter, Todd Defren and many, many others (see my blogroll for an idea of more) have constructively moved the field of online communication forward and I have enjoyed calling them colleagues and friends.
But as much as the online environment fosters collaboration and learning, it also has a much darker side.
Call them trolls, determined detractors, or online bullies, there are people that use the social media networks and channels to evoke emotional responses, bait people and destroy reputations.
If you have been online for any length of time you have run into some of these bullying types. Some you can reason with and some you cannot. I love a good, healthy and reasonable debate, but this goes beyond debate to ad hominem and other fallacies in logic. Read Ike Pigott’s seminal Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument to learn more about how some of these types operate.
The conventional wisdom is to ignore it. And I have to admit I have done just that on more than one occasion. It is common to hear the phrase: “Don’t feed the trolls.”
“Don’t feed the trolls.”
In large part we grumble in private and keep our mouths shut in public, but my friend Andrea Weckerle has started a new movement to do something about improving the quality of online communication and to bring peer pressure to bear on those that traffic in online button pushing.
In 2006, she wrote a post called The Online Disinhibition Effect that sheds some light on WHY these bullies operate, but she has now taken them on in an article penned with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in a Wall Street journal article. She has launched a new non-profit organization, CiviliNation:
CiviliNation is a global non-profit education and research organization focused on advancing the full capability of individuals to communicate and engage in cyberspace in a responsible and accountable way. A strong supporter of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, CiviliNation believes that free speech is enhanced through civil dialog and a rational exchange of information and ideas. By fostering an online culture in which individuals can fully engage and contribute without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment, or lies, the core ideals of democracy are upheld.
You can listen to an interview on For Immediate Release of Andrea Weckerle talking about the new organization. Also, she has asked me to serve on an advisory board for the organization and I have accepted, so if you have any arrows, advice or thoughts to sling, send them my way – but be courteous in the spirit of the organization.
What do you think? How do you think that free thinking people can take on cyberbullies? What, if anything do you think should be done?