Social Media Insults

A New York Times blog post tries to make sense of insults on social media. The writer describes one situation:

"In one, Im-ani Gandy, a lawyer and legal analyst, describes the harassment she receives on Twitter this way: 'The hate-filled invective spewed by the dregs of society awaits you in your notifications. It's personal and there's no avoiding it.' In her five years on Twitter, she says, she has been called the N-word so many times that 'it barely registers as an insult anymore.'"

Apparently, few of us are safe. Forty-percent of people have experienced some type of harassment on social media. 

Twitter abuseIn a blog post, Twitter announced new ways to manage online abuse. The site is making reporting harassment easier and has implemented a blocking mechanism. The company also acknowledges there's more work to be done:

"We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area. In the coming months, you can expect to see additional user controls, further improvements to reporting and new enforcement procedures for abusive accounts. We'll continue to work hard on these changes in order to improve the experience of people who encounter abuse on Twitter." 

Sites such as Yik Yak aren't helping. With the tagline, "Share your thoughts and keep your privacy on Yik Yak," the site allows people to post anonymous comments about people around them. 

But a group of Colgate professors flooded the site with positive comments. Tired of reading insults that are dividing the campus, Geoff Holm, an associate professor of biology, said, "If we have opinions, it's important to own them." Rather than posting anonymously, professors sign their names. I must admit that some of the Yik Yak posts are quite clever. But the insulting ones are not funny at all. 

Discussion Starters:

  • Do you post anonymously online? Why? How, if at all, does the anonymity affect your posts?
  • What's your view of the Colgate professors' approach to Yik Yak? Will it make a difference?