The internet is a great tool for us. We have knowledge at our fingertips, everything and anything are accessible to us. Unfortunately, that means everything, good and bad.
If you were born in the last 20 years, you’re part of the ‘internet generation’. A generation of people who have not just had to deal with the restrictions of the patriarchy in real life, but the same restrictions have trickled over into the realm of the world wide web.
Last year, a study found that 37% of young women aged 18-24 have experienced online abuse. Most of this abuse is of a very disturbing nature.
I wanted to speak to women from varying backgrounds, who had experienced this abuse, women who were comfortable sharing their personal stories and how they think online harassment can be tackled.
I spoke to Georgia from Hello Georgia, a 21-year-old university student who runs her own online social media and marketing business. I also heard from Lizzie, an online gamer & Sabriel, a student/mental health blogger.
The women I heard from had different experiences and it was no surprise to discover that not all of the heat came from men.
First and foremost, do you think women face problems online?
Georgia: I believe women do face problems online, yes. Especially when voicing their own opinions. Recently, I saw the scholar and classicist Mary Beard facing backlash for discussing her own views and it was just disgusting seeing the comments users (read: mostly men) were leaving.
What have been your experiences online?
Georgia: I’ve had mixed experiences online. I’ve been writing blogs from a young age and I always got praise from fellow bloggers.
In all forms of online platforms, be it gaming or social media, abuse in a variety of forms are thrown at women. Why Do you think women are targeted?
Georgia: There’s always been this underlying rule in our society, that women must be ‘silent’ and they can’t speak up about their abuse and I think that’s why women, in particular, are targeted because their abusers know that they probably might not end up saying or doing anything about it.
How can online abuse be combatted?
Georgia: Talking about abuse can be a way to combat it, which is why I applaud the movements like ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘Me Too’. Although these weren’t strictly speaking about ‘online abuse’ the way that people were able to openly share their stories and get that off their chest, and also feel like their not alone must be so liberating.
Whether it’s tweeting, writing a blog post, a youtube video, publishing an online article – you name it – having the courage to speak out against abuse can be a great first step to combatting it and then that can spiral into an energetic and massive thing and then people in authority might just take notice!
I also think the bigwigs at Facebook, Twitter and the like can definitely do more combat online abuse on their platforms. Yes, we have things such as being able to report people, but that’s part of the aftermath of abuse and I just think it can be policed much better.
Sabriel: It depends on what’s happening, sometimes muting or blocking is enough. But if they decide to take it further and track down where you live or making accounts purely to troll then reporting it is a must.
What would be your advice for young women online?
Georgia: You do you. Honestly, if someone gives you gip, block them and don’t let them ruin your day. It can be disheartening when people abuse you online and throw comments at you and yes, it can often be relentless. Be open about it and don’t be silenced!
Lizzie: My biggest piece of advice, coming from experience, is to not take everything you hear or read to heart. I know that’s really difficult when people are being downright mean but I’ve learned that some of the meaner people want to see the negative reactions we come out with. If we don’t give it to them, they seem to calm down for the time being.