Did you see an article about online bullying today? I did. I saw three of them. All of them terrible and preventable. Online bullying is a part of this world now. It’s the truth. At this point, I think we all know it. According to Cyberbullying.org 33% of people under the age of 18 have experienced cyberbullying at some point. This data is confirmed by the National Bullying Prevention Center, who also add that over the past ten years cyberbullying has jumped from 18% to 34% among the same age group.
It seems as though every day a story about a young person being bullied hits the news. Often the end for this troubled person isn’t a happy one and that is more than a shame; it’s a travesty. Social Media platforms and the net are guilty of this. What isn’t mentioned often (nor even in the surveys conducted by these organizations) is the amount of bullying that goes on through online gaming too. Through the general chats, in-game chats, and in private messages; bullying and brigading seems to be pervasive in all online gaming these days. Add to the adrenaline from the competitive aspect of video games, you get a deadly (but often overlooked) segment of the cyberbullying world.
Just the other day, I was playing an online competitive game where this happened before my very eyes. At one point during the game an individual began calling a player on his very own team terrible names and insults. He just kept at it. No one said anything; nor did anything. We just sat there and played while this player was abused via in game chat. Now, I’m a grown man. If someone wants to call me a “princess” or any other colorful term (and they were quite colorful) I am absolutely fine ignoring it but those messages weren’t directed at me. The person those messages were going to could have been someone considerably younger than myself, or someone who struggles with self-esteem and/or depression. I did report the guy after the match.
Could I have done more? Could we as a team have done more? The answer is a plain and simple yes. However, it comes with a “but”. Here’s why: I did call out the original “toxic” player in the match chat after the game had ended. I did this to shame him because that sort of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone. Not if you can do something about it. That’s what our parents always said, “You have to stand up to bullies.” Right? Well imagine my surprise when the chat lit up and began throwing vitriolic hate in my direction. Brigading someone; grouping up to spew hatred as a group seems just as endemic as bullying itself, yet is hardly ever mentioned for what it is. A gaggle of bullies working together to inflict even more damage upon the recipient. While I wasn’t super thrilled at this reaction, it didn’t do anything to dampen my mood. What it did do is intrigue me.
It made me wonder about the type of world we live in and why it seems like bullying has suddenly become a “freedom of expression”. Something worthy of protecting even if you had little to no stake in the original altercation. Something that is a right for anyone to take part in if they want to, and where those who call out/stand up to bullies are suddenly seen as the enemy. The corrupters of the American way. The evil who wants to strip away freedoms and enforce a politically correct world upon the good citizens of this country. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a stark contrast between not being PC and being a bully.
I can make you a list; several pages long of all my jokes from my arsenal. I have told a ton of jokes pertaining to religion, race, gender, and etc. I think all of us have made jokes like this before and I think most of us would agree that these things have no place. Especially, in most civil conversations with strangers. Among friends, possibly. You’re making a joke and (hopefully) don’t mean it beyond the confines of humor. It may not be politically correct to say such things but it’s certainly your right to do so. Where it differs from bullying is the direction those words take.
Fighting against ideas and stereotypes is not only acceptable it should be encouraged for constructive dialogue, but these ideas and stereotypes are not people. They can take the abuse. To direct such toxicity at a person is a completely different story. So often with online interactions, we forget that the faceless stranger we are fighting with does have a face. There is a person behind the other end of your keyboard, and they have just as many problems, issues, and weaknesses as you do. This is especially true in video games. A source of entertainment which is primarily composed of young people. Yet, nothing is done to protect them from such aggressive and unhealthy abuse. We just consider it a “normal part of the experience”, but why should we? Why don’t we stand up and fight against this?
This may be due to a lot of people just probably don’t care. It’s sad, but true. I have certainly been guilty of this more than once. Unless the hate speech is being directed at me. To quote from Edmund Burke’s most famous line, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
It is not a violation of the first amendment to stand up against hate. In fact, it is the opposite. To use another famous quote, “Your rights end at my nose.” Meaning: say what you want, but don’t expect me to take it on the chin if I disagree with you. The gaming community is missing this right now. We are missing our good people who are willing to stand up and fight back against toxicity and hate speech. Why? Because it’s easier to do nothing than something. I believe the other reason people tend not to stand up to bullies online is exactly what happened to me. Why rock the boat when you’re just going to get a brigade coming after you? Is it worth the stress? Is it worth the time? I believe that the answer to this lays within the first problem. It’s an absence of people who are willing to back you up. People who are willing to get into the crossfire for what is “right”. That isn’t to say that reverse bullying is the key.
The point of this isn’t to start a brigade in the opposite direction. Then you would end up with the same thing at the end; a brigade. What I mean by this is that showing your support of the person choosing to right the wrong is never an unwelcome thing. Don’t pile on the toxicity, but instead show your support of the affected. Lift them up to oppose the bullies that are trying to tear them down. Don’t feed the troll instead just tend to your inner hero.
I’m not an idealist. I know that online bullying, video game bullying, and brigading bullying will always be a thing. Some people are awful like that. But, it is possible to curb it? Is it possible to give support to someone who chooses to stand up against hate speech? Is it possible that showing confidence and resistance in the face of online abuse can help protect someone who may not be as strong as you, or I are? It is possible it might even save a life? They’re just video games after all, and as fun as they may be, they will never be worth a life.
The online gaming community is a wonderful and marvelous place filled with struggle, adventure, and passion. It is a place where people meet and fall in love. It is a place where friends become enemies, but only for the length of a match. It is a place for everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves. It’s beautiful. Why do we let people take that beauty away from us? Why do we let children take such unneeded hate into their mind and hearts? These are questions that come in play, and cyberbullying with online gaming is just one of the many problems we do encounter. However, something can be done. By being more aware and being able to help those in need sounds like a good start. Now, next question. Are you ready to press the start button?