Commentary: There is a disturbing trend emerging on many internet discussion forums and social media sites. Tried and true manners and etiquette are fast disappearing. The problem seems to stem from the fact that some people no longer appreciate the challenge and beauty of a lively debate. Instead some seem to want to use these threads as a platform where their opinion is the only one that matters.
Whereas before the only thing such commenters blew up was their own ego, now we are living in a time when you never know what they might do. More and more we are seeing the particularly ugly comment #GoKillYourself. It was probably there all the time, but with all of the recent stories of children, teens, and adults killing themselves over cyberbullying, these vicious comments seem to jump off the page.
The comment is usually preceded by a hashtag for emphasis and may contain other instructions. Some of the more common ones are #ShutUpAndGoKillYourself, #LogOffAndGoKillYourself, #StopTalkingAndGoKillYourself, #LockYourselfInARoomAndKillYourself, #GoJumpOffABridgeAndKillYourself.
Forums are meant to be places where people can safely gather and contribute their opinions and views to the topic of conversation. What is alarming is that there no longer seems to be any appreciation of the fact that people can agree to disagree and still be civil. It is certainly fine to attack someone’s point of view with a stinging rebuttal. In fact, these very differences of opinion can lead to a thread with pages of engaging and entertaining comments. But it is never okay to attack the person who made the comment.
Why do people want to shut down a conversation if it isn’t going their way? Why not just silently excuse themselves and find a thread more suitable to their liking? There are many theories. The person may have no, or very little, control in their own lives, so it gives them a sense of power to badger other commenters; especially while remaining invisible behind a computer screen.
Maybe they are a part of a group or culture that uses #GoKillYourself as a figure of speech and mean no harm. For example, the highly offensive “B word” and “N word” have been so overused in everything from TV programs and movies, that many people use it in regular conversations as if it is a term of endearment meant for friends and loved ones.
Whatever the reason, it needs to be stopped now. How can we get rid of this virus? Well that seems a monumental task, but there are some steps we can take to move in that direction. Moderators can block or delete commenters who do this.
Some threads have thousands of replies and the moderator, unless comments have to be approved, often does not see every response. Readers can be a great help by flagging any comment that contains the phrase #GoKillYourself or any of its variations which will bring it to the moderator’s attention.
Why is this vitally important? A look at any news site will reveal an alarming number of recent mass shootings and murder-suicides. It is impossible to tell which commenter is almost to that point, or mentally ill, and for whom that simple command will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
We must do everything possible to make sure a silly hashtag order is not taken seriously by the wrong person who mistakes it for “voices in their heads” telling them to do it. So if you or any of your friends do this, start a campaign to stop it immediately. Because the person you tell to #GoKillYourself might do just that, but not before taking many other innocent bystanders with him or her during a real life rampage. Let’s #KeepItClassy and #TakeBackTheInternet.