Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda has issued a statement saying she’s suspending her social media accounts after anonymous trolls sent her messages including fake morgue photos of her dead father.
Let’s just all take a moment to think about the argument we’ve been hearing a lot in the past few weeks that online anonymity helps young people deal with grief and depression.
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, for example, was one of the earliest investors in Secret, and wrote earlier this year about why he decided to invest: because he believes that anonymous communities allow people to say things, and in some cases important things, that they would never say if they had to attach their real names.
Let’s just all take a moment to think about what’s more important: The right of strangers to express, and process, their feelings at the death of a celebrity, or the right of bereaved family members to be able to share their own grief without worrying that any click might lead to a snuff movie.
Let’s just all take a moment to ask why Twitter apparently demands that the victim of abuse actually click on — and therefore open, and see — an abusive message to report it, rather than being able to just report the entire account.
Let’s just all take a moment to think about whether there’s a link between the unforgivable abuse being suffered by Gawker writers in their own comments section and the tone set by headlines like “Asshole Gorilla Humps Robin Williams’ Corpse for Publicity.”
Koko. Koko sad. Koko water eye. Koko water water eye.
Doctor Penny Penny. Koko. Doctor Penny Koko say. Man. Foot. Man. Man man funny. Man funny Koko. Koko man funny. Koko hug. Man funny man hug. Koko. Before.
Let’s just all take a moment to think about whether “if you don’t want to see abusive messages, don’t use [Twitter/Secret/Facebook/Any other social network]” is an acceptable response to the victims of bullying.
Let’s just all take a moment to realize that, no matter how we feel about any of the above, and no matter how loudly we complain, it’s only going to get worse. Anonymity is here to stay, and the tone is only going to get uglier as everyone competes for an audience, personally and professionally. There’s a decent chance a self-proclaimed sociopath is going to win Big Brother this year, and that America will cheer when he does. For all of our 90s obsession with compassionate capitalism, tomorrow’s biggest companies are all being built by sociopaths. Activism no longer means sticking it to the man, it means going after the man’s hospital, anonymously. In less than 20 years, we’ll have our first openly sociopathic serious presidential contender, standing on a platform of “lulz.”
This is just how things are now, at least for our lifetime. Let’s just all take a moment — those of us who were born before the 90s — to be grateful we can at least remember a time before all this.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]