It’s almost Halloween, so I expect the dark and gory vibes of the season.
But the image I keep seeing on social media is the kind of gruesome that kicks you in the gut and ruins your day. The blond, blue-eyed boy is young enough to still have baby teeth, but he’s in black face and wearing a Ray Rice jersey. It gets worse: He’s dragging a black baby doll by her hair.
It’s a disgusting costume, a re-enactment of the viral video that showed the former Baltimore Ravens football player knocking out then-fiancee Janay and nonchalantly dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. Dozens of morally bankrupt adults have been posting photos of their Rice get-ups this Halloween, belittling domestic violence and re-victimizing Janay Rice for their amusement. But to see a kid look like that? I didn’t think even the Internet could troll that hard.
The Web is a place both wonderful and wicked — unfortunately, the latter crashes in on users with waves of hate. And often, people get swept up in the current. They lose all moral integrity and join in the darkness. Online, boundaries are lost, and people joke about things that are typically off-limits.
Four out of 10 people have been harassed online, according to a survey released last week by the Pew Research Center. Most people — 73 percent — have seen someone insulted online. But 60 percent said they do not respond to the sucker punches so often thrown in the webosphere.
I know we’re often taught to walk away from bullies, to not engage the fools. But there are times when speaking up is necessary. And this is a moment when the Internet is not tolerating the trolling. Not only has Janay Rice spoken out, but so has social media. Far more people are reprimanding the reprehensible behavior than celebrating it. The backlash has come so swiftly that nearly every Instagram and Twitter account showing that tacky costume has gone private or deleted the offensive pictures.
Social media is building ethics. And it’s about time.
Online, women — especially young women — face the harshest abuse. Of those ages 18-24, 26 percent told Pew they’d been stalked online, and 25 percent said they’d been sexually harassed online.
Cloaked in the cowardice of anonymity, the Web has allowed images of rape to go viral and jokes to be made of domestic violence, while people delight in the private, nude pictures of celebrity women.
And there is #GamerGate, where feminists fighting female stereotypes in games have been threatened with rape and more. These are not things to dismiss with a simple “haters gonna hate.”
As we’ve seen in this haunting Halloween trend of people re-enacting the beating of Janay Rice, when we stand up for one another we can change the narrative. Look at what happened with #JadaPose, the sick viral trend of people photographed in the pose of a 16-year-old rape victim. Social media responded with #IamJada and created meaningful dialogue.
According to Pew, 92 percent of Web surfers believe Internet culture nurtures a more critical environment. But I also believe when people tap into their hearts instead of hiding behind their keyboards, they can change the world, on and offline.