Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Social Networking - How do babies learn to hate?

Yesterday CBC Radio "The Current" was interviewing people about the case of an adult women who provoked a teenage girl to take her own life by taunting her on one of the social networking web sites. The people who were being interviewed were lamenting the fact that the internet was being used as a platform for bullying and for promoting hatred. Reference was also made to the recent "Kick a Ginger" campaign launched via Facebook. Most of the discussion on The Current focused around the notion that steps should be taken to limit internet activities that might cause harm to others. I don't want to be flippant about the tragedy of a young girl dying as a result of the taunting of a malicious adult, but I can't honestly see how trying to control what people do or say on social networking sites is going to do anything to stop what humans have been doing to each other since the beginning of time. The upside of the internet being used to spread hatred is that it can be tracked (which apparently has not dissuaded some people from exposing themselves), and the "victim" can chose to log off. Irregardless, long before the internet, people destroyed other people's lives by gossipping and spreading malicious rumours - you don't need broadband to do that. Homosexuals have been killing themselves at a record pace after being outed or shamed by their families and "social networks" since the beginning of time. The image of Victorian era women sitting around in their parlours destroying the reputations of their adversaries over a cup of tea comes to mind. I think the better question is, how, as a society, do we stop teaching our children to hate? Babies aren't born as bigots, or homophobes, or racists. Their parents, or their friends, collectively known as "society", teach them to hate and to fear what they don't know. So "society" can try to police the internet; who knows, maybe cell phones and text messages should be regulated as well; but that will not stop people from bashing each other until "society" starts to teach and practice love, understanding and tolerance from the moment of conception. Do your part - go see MILK, and make a pledge to refuse to gossip, teach or spread hatred and intolerance of the diversity of humanity. You just might save some one's life.

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