One of the best segments on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” (previously here and here). Pretty self-explanatory title. What’s incredible, however, is the thick skin the participants display. No matter how barbarically they’ve been insulted, they always seem to have the last laugh. Taking a shot at Jon Hamm’s body? Questioning the smell of Jake Gyllenhaal’s genitals? Good luck with that. The best thing you can achieve is a public shaming which will make you crawl back into your sad little cave.
Sadly, insults are a very common online phenomena. According to a Pew research, nearly three quarters of internet users—73%—have witnessed online harassment. Offensive name-calling and purposeful embarrassment were the most common types of these attacks.
Interestingly, young people are not only most likely to observe name-calling and efforts to embarrass someone, their experiences really stand out when considering more severe types of online harassment. They observe physical threats, sexual harassment, stalking, and harassment over a sustained period of time at almost double the rate of the general internet-using population.
However, according to Nigel Barber Ph.D., the future does seem a little brighter. “Online communities are becoming more concerned about the destructive consequences of tolerating the flamers, trolls, and vandals in their midst and are instituting mechanisms for group punishment in which those who violate codes of decency are identified and excluded,” he wrote for Psychology Today.
“Such mechanisms are already ingrained in applications such as Uber and Airbnb. Soon social media will also be regulated—and it’s about time.”