As part of the documentary and multimedia project I’m working on, I’m launching another arm of it, and it is one we can all share.
Using hashtag #TakeBackTheWeb, I’m asking people to go to Instagram to reclaim the hurtful or threatening words they/we have received online. Maybe you’d like to write the hurtful tweet/comment on a piece of paper and take a selfie with it like my example here. Maybe you’d like to write it on your arms or legs or torso or whatever to show that you won’t tolerate body-shaming. Maybe you’d like to write a declarative statement subverting the messages you received. The “how” is up to you. But, the intention is to show exactly the insults, the threats, the vitriol many people face online every day, and to put human faces on the issue.
Anonymous abusive behavior has caused many to walk away from social media, or dial-back usage. And, when that happens, the cultural message is clear that the public narrative will be led and owned by the loudest and the meanest, the scariest and most threatening, and diversity of opinion and perspective is not allowed. Let’s turn that on its head. Let’s push back.
To be sure, we often say that to acknowledge trollish, bullyish, harassing or abusive behavior is to feed it and make it grow. We’ve created a narrative around online harassment that the safest, most intelligent move is to avoid our social feeds and our comments sections when we say something of consequence. But, in doing so, we’ve taught women (and certainly girls) to flee from confrontation rather than wade in. What’s more, the narrative we’ve chosen to thread around this issue has made it taboo, if not downright contemptuous, for the targeted to admit rude, mean-spirited or intentionally abusive remarks made to us online sometimes legitimately hurt. And if we aren’t allowed to admit something is a problem, it’s going to be damn near impossible to fix it.
So, this campaign aims to reclaim all that: to not let bad behavior lurk in the corners but to hit it with a bright floodlight and show exactly how widespread the problem of online harassment really is, and exactly how hurtful much of it can be. Further, to put our own human faces against the words we receive online, we help fight the disconnect and help to remind everyone that the online world is still a person-to-person conversation, and anonymity is no excuse for harassment.
So, I hope you will join me on Instagram (or whatever social media platform you prefer) using hashtag #TakeBackTheWeb.