Disturbing

Yesterday, I couldn’t take social media anymore, so I took a break.  Perhaps my poor state of physical health contributed, but I’d just had enough.  I made my post here, and then turned off my computer and phone.

Why?  Because what I was seeing was jokes at other people’s expense and  terrible stories of the physical and emotional suffering that a lot of people in our world are experiencing on a daily basis.  And people forgetting that there is another human being on the other end of that social media tool.  Someone who feels pain just like me.  Some people just attack others with no regard for another, and when I’ve seen too much of it, I know it’s time for a break.  I refuse to become part of that world.

Image courtesy of [image creator: M - Pics] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [image creator: M - Pics] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all seen the three monkeys (yes, I know these are chimps), and maybe seen the internet-tailored one with four monkeys.  I wasn’t able to easily find a picture that I could legally use here, so you’ll have to settle for the words:

Monkeys SEE no evil

Monkeys HEAR no evil

Monkeys SPEAK no evil

Monkeys POST no evil

Wouldn’t it be great if social media were governed by such rules?  Am I spoiling the fun?  Maybe for some people, but for others we would be sparing the hurt.

Today, after my day off yesterday, I was greeted this morning with this, as the first post I read:

“We have lost over 40 kids to suicide since the beginning of this year!! When are we going to WAKE UP and do something about what we teach our children?? Why are we allowing violent and demeaning programming in our homes?? When are we going to get these kids some meaningful help??? MAKES ME SICK.”

That’s 40 teenagers lost to suicide, through apparent bullying, in 11 days.  No doubt the number has climbed since then, and more sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends and classmates have been lost.

I don’t have the details, but what I had in front of me was enough to put me off my breakfast, and because I knew that some of the bullying that would have taken place would have been in the form of cyber-bullying, I was again put off social media.  It was only a day ago that I wrote of social media being used to encourage teens to self harm ( see Like Bees To A Honey Pot).  It seems that every day I become more aware of the harm that is being done, and I hate it.

To find out some more I went searching for blogs about this topic and found one that distressed me further.  It was the list of ‘recent posts’ that got me.  We all have one on our blog, but not quite like this.  Each post listed was another teen known to the blogger who had committed suicide.  This blog is dedicated to making a stand about teen suicide by remembering each lost teen.  He says:

“Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.”

This is about one part of the United States, but that made me think about how many more teen suicides there have been in the world in that 11 days.  Much of the reporting of teen suicides is very restricted and so it’s difficult, if impossible, to know the full extent but the one thing I know is that there is a lot of people hurting out there.

This is my point.  I know that there is a lot of good that comes from people working tirelessly, and usually unpaid, to support people through social media.  I also know that a lot of people (both young and old) feel less isolated because of the connections that they have through social media.  There is also a lot of good information sharing that goes on.  All these things are great.  But they get neutralized, in a way, by the harm that is generated through social media.

There has to be a better way than what we’re doing now.  We can’t afford to be losing teens (and adults) at the rate we are.  Maybe I’m being idealistic again, but society seems to have this idea that someone is free to say whatever they want on social media.  To hell with the consequences.  Society forgets that there are human beings, with real feelings, worries and insecurities on the other end of the computer screen.

My parents had that popular Christian saying of “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) as something that guided them in what they said and did.  I know a lot of people still operate by that, and if that fits with your spiritual beliefs then that is great.  It doesn’t work for me personally, but what does work for me is:

What If It Was Me?

What if it was me on the other end of what I am about to post?  How would I feel to be on the receiving end of that?  If we truly answered that question, wouldn’t it change how we post?  I guess it is just another way of saying ‘treat others how you want to be treated yourself.’  It’s easy really.

You know I was really lucky.  The circumstances of my high schooling were such that I could have been in for a really hard time with bullying, but it never happened.  I was bullied briefly at primary school (because my Dad was the local preacher!) and I struggled with that for a while, but really I was lucky to get off lightly and to have the support around me when I needed it.

What I’m learning is that so many kids don’t have that support.  So many kids don’t have the love and the belief in themselves to get through it.  Social media is great in terms of the support so many groups and pages are giving, but I’m sure we can do better.  The good stuff is unfortunately not the stuff that social media is known for.  It’s the bad stuff that is what we hear about.

And don’t think this is just about teenagers.  It’s not.  Through social media a lot of adults get hurt too.  It can be blatant bullying but it can be as simple as the joke you post.  Maybe it’s funny to you, but what about for those whom it hurts?  Is it really necessary to have your laugh at the expense of someone else?  Again, what if it was you?

“Do you ever feel like breaking down?
Do you ever feel out of place?
Like somehow you just don’t belong
And no one understands you
Do you ever wanna run away?
Do you lock yourself in your room?
With the radio on turned up so loud
That no one hears you screaming

No you don’t know what it’s like
When nothing feels all right
You don’t know what it’s like
To be like me

To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one’s there to save you
No you don’t know what it’s like
Welcome to my life” 

―    Simple Plan

 Related articles

Violating Community Standards

I had firmly in my head, what I was going to write about today. But you know how things happen. We see things, we read things, and suddenly there is a whole new post bursting out of us? That’s me today.

English: Facebook Silhouette

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

Earlier this morning I came across a picture on a Facebook profile which I found offensive and disturbing (not the image above).  I know I’m prone to be disturbed by such images depicting violence, and so usually I have to take a step back and ask myself ‘would others be offended by this picture?’  I thought they would have, so reported the picture to Facebook, hoping that they would also find it offensive and remove it.

I’m not posting the picture here because of how much it disturbs me, and I don’t want others to be disturbed by content on my blog.  But it was an image of a woman holding a hand gun to a man’s head.

This is what Facebook reported back to me:

Status

Photo not removed

Details

Thank you for your report. We carefully reviewed the photo you reported, but found it doesn’t violate our community standard on graphic violence so we didn’t remove it.

Someone has a gun pointed at another person’s head, and that’s doesn’t violate community standards?  Excuse me, but I find that refusal almost more disturbing than the image I objected to.

Interestingly when I followed their hyperlink to graphic violence, I found a lot of words but no specific definition of graphic violence.  What they did do was define violence and threats as:

“Safety is Facebook’s top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence. Organizations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity are not allowed to maintain a presence on our site. We also prohibit promoting, planning or celebrating any of your actions if they have, or could, result in financial harm to others, including theft and vandalism.”   (1.)

But that’s talking about what people say on Facebook, rather than what they depict in their images.  What happened to the phrase we all know ‘actions speak louder than words’?  The same ‘images speak louder than words’ could apply, but my guess is that because it wasn’t the owner of the Facebook profile portrayed holding a gun to someone else’s head then everything is fine.  That’s not fine too me at all.

I accept that the gun laws in my country are very different from in other parts of the world.  It is one thing that makes me glad to be a kiwi.  But look what the world was faced with just a few weeks ago when 28 adults and children were tragically killed by gunfire.  The idealist in me would like to think that social media would have reacted quickly and prohibited this type of violent image to be shown.

Personally I can cope with seeing the image, although I find it very disturbing and unnecessary.  I can manage my reactions so that I don’t think that the behaviour depicted in the image is acceptable behaviour.

But my 13-year-old nephew can see this image too, from his Facebook profile.  I think he is a pretty wise kid, but he is a kid and I don’t think it’s acceptable that he is confronted by this sort of stuff simply in keeping up with his friends.

I’m wondering what would make it unacceptable to Facebook?  All I can think of (and I apologise for the graphic impression) is that is the image included a bullet travelling into the victims head.

Facebook say above that “Safety is Facebook’s top priority“.  What a joke.  What safety do they actually care about, other than their own?  If impressionable minds see the type of image I reported today, they assume that such behaviour is normal and acceptable.

I will never accept that one person holding a gun to another’s head is either normal and acceptable.  And God help us if our society gets to the point where it is.

Right now there are people talking about wanting to keep guns away from people with mental illness, but it is not just those people who need to be kept away from guns.  It’s the people who think that the use of guns against others is okay.

And in that group, I’d be inclined to put Facebook. Shame on them, they have an opportunity to take a stand against gun violence yet they aren’t interested.

After-thought:  There were some other issues about this Facebook profile which should have been of concern to Facebook too.  Don’t get me started…

And apologies to any American’s personally offended by my use of this quote today.  I simply use it, not to offend, but to make a point:

“You can’t talk about fucking in America, people say you’re dirty. But if you talk about killing somebody, that’s cool.” 

―    Richard Pryor

A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried

Image via Be You Own Kind of Beautiful

I don’t cry a lot.  I am an emotional person and that means that I feel things strongly.  I have wanted to cry at many times recently but it just hasn’t happened.  But now it has.  It’s amazing how something in which I have no involvement can affect me so deeply, but I guess I just hate it when I see someone being treated so badly.

Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at ...

Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at TEDxSanDiego in December 2011 – _MG_4054 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

Through my Facebook page Infinite Sadness or what I learnt of a man named Jason.  He’s obviously been on the news, particularly in United States, but somehow I had never heard him.  Maybe this news didn’t get as far as New Zealand, or maybe I was otherwise occupied when I should have been paying attention.  If you have heard of him, then you are probably having some thoughts about what you know so far.  I would be interested to know what your first thoughts are when you read his name here.  It seems his name is one which inspires strong feeling.

Jason Russell is a man who has recently suffered what is known as a ‘Brief Reactive Psychosis‘ as a result of extreme stress.  Before this happened he had become known for being the founder of the Invisible Children group and was behind the Kony 2012 documentary.  That highlighted human atrocities in Uganda by Joseph Kony, who forced thousands of children into sex slavery, while turning others into child soldiers to further his warped agenda (1.).  I’m not going to go into more detail because it’s not the point I want to make.  That said, searching the names I have mentioned will easily bring the details to your eyes.  It’s not the point I want to make because while the suffering of the children appalls me, what has happened to Jason Russell personally shocks me and leaves me thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

That’s not what made me cry either although it appalls me that I could face something similar.  It’s not even the criticism Invisible Children have had over how they spend their money.  What I care about, and it made me cry is the way this man (or any man or woman for that matter) has been treated as a result of his mental illness.  This man should never have become the victim of media and the general public who have found it funny to highlight his downfall into psychosis.  There are masses of clips of this man in a way I would never want to be portrayed.  I’m not showing them to you because I’m not prepared to join the bandwagon of mocking a man because of his mental illness, and giving those that posted them the satisfaction of more people watching.  And actually for the same reason, I didn’t watch them myself.  I saw the first scene frozen on my screen before me of a naked man, in public, clearly doing things you wouldn’t want to be seen doing.

My heart breaks because this man is ill.  He has a mental illness, which is now being treated, but it caused him to (probably unknowingly) do something that has caught the attention of the masses who choose to see it as a joke.  There is no joke in mental illness, ever.  I don’t know this man, and it could be anyone in the same situation but why do people choose to laugh at another’s pain?  I grew up and still believe in the philospohy to let the one who has never fallen cast the first stone.

I had my own psychotic episode back in 2001.  I was hospitalised as Jason Russell has been.  I largely kept from those around me, what that psychosis entailed because I knew I risked being seen as a joke.  I never went naked in a city street but my reality was that I believed that the  events of 9/11 in 2001 were my fault.  I believed that those thousands that died, died because of me.  I had reasons for believing this and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.  I thought I had triggered the end of the world.  At the same time I also believed that I needed to kill someone who was very close to me.  Even though I had never before had such thoughts, I was now seriously considering how to do it.  As it was the person was not in the city in which I lived but I was told that if I took a step out of my city, then I would be arrested.  11 years on it is possible to smile about this but really there was absolutely nothing funny about what my mind had convinced me.  I was sick and I needed help.

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with an acquaintance in United States about how I suspected the stigma associated with mental illness was greater in New Zealand than in America.  We discussed how in the States it seemed more acceptable to have some form of mental illness.  But if the case of Jason Russell , who is somewhat of a public figure there, is anything to go by the stigma is still alive and well there.  I’m not in that country and I’m not here to judge.  Actually I suspect if Jason was a public figure in New Zealand people would unfortunately be just as quick to pour laughter and scorn on his suffering.

Yes, because I have a mental illness myself I am maybe sensitive to such stories.  But I’d like to think it would make me cry regardless.  In my view it’s just not acceptable to laugh at, judge, or condemn any person for their suffering and pain.  I’d like to see You Tube remove the clips of this incident and I’d like to see the media do an about-face and apologise and support this man.  I’d like to see individuals say this is not okay to treat another human being like this.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.

It is well known that one in four people will encounter mental illness in their lifetime.  That is huge.  The chances are it could be you next, or the person who released the video.  None of us know what lies ahead of us.  None of us know who the next person to suffer will be.  None of us are exempt.  That cries out to me that we need to treat our fellow human with compassion.  Changing the world might be expecting too much, but compassion from each individual would be a great way to start.

PS.  If you’re saying to yourself ‘I’m just one person and what can I do?’ Well, we can all start with caring for the person next to us.  Every little bit helps.  Another thing you could do is share what I have written.  Let’s see if others feel the same.  And if the world can begin to change.

“No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother  that which he desireth for himself”

 Muhammad (P.B.U.H)