In April, Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro allowed themselves to be videoed while sitting across from men who read comments directed to the two female sports reporters that had been posted on various social media networks. As the men read the comments they were visibly uncomfortable, often unable to look the two women in the eyes and in some instances unable to finish reading the message. Let’s be clear, the men reading the comments were not the individuals who had written them. One has to wonder if those who actually wrote the horrific comments would have ever even considered saying them to the two women in person. Unlikely not.
Yes, I realize that this event is likely categorized under “old news” in this era of 10-second news cycles, but a recent cyber bully event directed at the girlfriend of a hockey player brought it to mind again—along with so many of the other comments that are directed at “celebrities” on a daily basis.
This weekend, for whatever reason, a parody Twitter account that I will not even name so as not to give him the limelight he so desperately seeks, decided that it would be appropriate to taunt the girlfriend of a former Belfast Giant with graphic tweets of a sexual and completely inappropriate nature. Fortunately the backlash of Twitter users resulted in the deletion of the tweets, which sadly doesn’t happen often enough.
The anonymity of the keyboard gives the biggest of cowards a feeling of superiority and power. The fact that they cannot see the reaction of the human to whom they are spewing their abuse makes it all the easier for them to continue.
There have been horrible things sent to wives and girlfriends of hockey players before, usually blaming them for the level of play of their spouse or significant other. This was one of the first examples that I was aware of in which the girlfriend was bullied in this manner with sexual abuse and props.
Cyber bullying is often mentioned in regard to schools, but it is not limited to them, nor is it a new thing. While laws are beginning to catch up to technology, the taunts of cyber bullies continue. Some of the comments that were directed to Sarah Spain and Julie DiCarlo were violent in nature.
I had my life threatened via email many years ago, long before “cyber bullying” was even a term. It ultimately resulted in police being involved—though the laws were far behind the times then—and the person making the threats creating multiple fake online identities. As the online company with whom I had a professional connection would shut one down, the person would create another. It was an education for sure. That abuse though was directed at me because the individual felt I had wronged him in some way online.
Unlike the taunts directed at Sarah and Julie, when I was being threatened it had nothing to do with the sports world, or a female being in the sports world. In fact, it was the innocuous world of genealogy—family history—well known as an interest to women. I mention this to show that such bullies can be found everywhere.
In the case of the event this weekend it stemmed from the fact that over the summer the hockey player elected to sign a contract with another team for the coming season. Perhaps if he had done so to be closer to his girlfriend a person with no morals could justify picking on her. The reality in this instance was that he is now farther away from his girlfriend and he made the decision that was best for his career. So now in addition to seeing her boyfriend even less she has been subjected to a vile online attack.
There is absolutely no excuse for the types of hate and violence that cyber bullies post. Perhaps if more individuals reacted the way the Belfast Giants and EIHL hockey fans did this weekend, more such horrible messages would be pulled. Sadly, the parody account is still active.
No one deserves the treatment this girlfriend was subjected to this weekend. Just because it is bits and bytes instead of sticks and stones doesn’t make it hurt any less. No one, regardless of their job, deserves to be threatened or taunted with violence.
The next time you see such a post online, perhaps you will consider how you would feel if you were the subject of such a taunt. Then perhaps instead of ignoring it, you will call out the cyber bully and get the company behind the social media involved so that it can be deleted.
It’s okay for people to be angry. It’s okay for them to be disappointed when a favorite player doesn’t return. What isn’t okay is to textually attack that person or any of their family or friends. Some of us are strong enough to consider the source and dismiss the cowards, but some will take it to heart and the outcome could be disastrous.
Note: This was updated to address that the tweeter deleted his tweet. He has also since apologized to the party he offended.
Update 13 Sep 2016: The individual has also deleted his parody account and seems genuinely sorry for what he did.