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

Just Like Me

It’s been a busy week for the news media.  Wow, I guess they’ve all earned their negotiated salaries, although I do wish they would be paid somehow on the basis of what truth they spread.  Social media has also been busy.  Often partly a response to the news media, sometimes spread what they’ve called their own ‘truth’ and sometimes simply spreading lies (like the news), or popular opinion.

It’s made me pretty sad.  Sometimes it’s made me cry, that they can get away with saying the things the do, let alone convincing a somewhat gullible public that they are right.  Other times I took my own advice (Step Away From Your Screen) and literally stepped away from my computer, my television and my phone.  I had to do that to save my mental health because the whirlwind of information (true or otherwise) has wanted to wrap me up in it.  At times I wanted to fight some battles (because that’s who I am) but mostly I took my advice, backed off and watched with sadness.

Image credit: Chenspec/Wikipedia.com

During this week a lot of people have died in this world as a direct result of violence. There are the many who have made the news media, but there are also many more that we never hear about, yet their death’s are just as tragic.

The obvious victims are the 27 children and adults who were shot in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  A tragic loss of so many lives that were mostly just beginning.

For a moment I want to consider two other deaths I have been aware of this week.  One is the 28th person to die at Sandy Hook, the shooter himself who turned the gun on himself.  Another tragic death I heard about this week was a man in England who was murdered in his own home. The details aren’t really important to what I am thinking, apart from to say that it appears his death was some type of vigilante pay back for a crime this man had recently been accused of having carried out.

In the case of both these men, the news media and the social media have played a part in spreading accusations and generalisations.  One man we have heard a lot about, the other you probably haven’t heard about.  What hasn’t been given is the truth.  We don’t know what is real and what is simply hearsay.

What I do know is that both of these men were just like me, in some ways.  They weren’t so different.  They had blood flowing through their veins. Like me they needed love, affection and acceptance.  At some point they had both probably been hurt badly, just like me.  These men were human beings, just like me, who it appeared that for some reason, everything went askew.

Maybe it was mental illness, maybe it was a developmental disorder.  Maybe too, they had some degree of evil (whatever that means) in them to drive them to the things they are said to have done.  Those things haven’t been clarified, yet the world has been quick to condemn.  Of the Connecticut young man I have seen a number of people describe him as ‘not human’.

That’s what leaves me sad.  I’m not condoning the actions of either of these men.  It was all wrong, and terribly devastating, particularly for those who lost family members and friends.

But these men were human, just like me.  And somewhere in spite of the horror of what has been happening, someone is no doubt grieving for them too.

I believe that these men were victims too.  I know that might be an unpopular stance to take, and I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I write (as long as I don’t get abused for an opinion).

Once, a number of years ago, both men were little boys and sometimes I find it helpful to think about them as when they were innocent children.  Again, because of the tragic death of 20 children last week it’s even hard to look at one of these men that way.  It just helps me to realise that while something has gone terrible wrong, these men were once just like you and me.

Yesterday I was at a barbeque (it’s summer here) which was a Christmas party for a group of people I know.  At one point I was sitting at a table with a lovely young man who I don’t know very well.  I’ve only met him a couple of times but what I do know is that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (a condition that has been subject to much media scrutiny this week).

It occurred to me while I was sitting eating my lunch with him, that it must be pretty difficult for him this week.  I know what it’s like to be looked down upon because I have a mental illness.  This young man doesn’t even have a mental illness (that I know of) yet the media have been putting him and other sufferers of Asperger’s in a group and saying we have to be careful of these people.  Apparently they might do ‘what Adam Lanza did’.

This man I was sitting with was, again, just like me.  He doesn’t deserve to be judged just because he has a disorder that makes him a little different from me.  Like me, he was enjoying having a drink, eating fresh berries and getting silly ‘Secret Santa’ gifts.  He had less to say for himself than most people on the group but that was the only noticeable difference.  He was, like me, having a good time.

Let me be very clear.  I’m not saying that horrific crimes committed against innocent people are acceptable.  They’re not.  It’s a terrible tragedy what has happened this week.  But we can’t afford to be looking at these people and thinking they are somehow different to us.  I’m not qualified to say why they might have done what they did.  I do have views on things that need to be done in society to prevent this from happening again, but those aren’t important right now.

What is important to me is that all the people who died this week (somewhere in the world) as a result of violence are human like me.  Someone loved them.  And to me, that puts a slightly different spin on things.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy,  we can all sense a mysterious connection
to each other.”

~  Meryl Streep

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have
been all of these.” 

―    Siddhārtha Gautama

When Things Go Viral

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Last week in my post What Battles To Fight?, I was frustrated by having too many battles I wanted to fight.  Too many things I disagreed with strongly.  I knew I couldn’t tackle every battle, and if I did, it simply wouldn’t be any good for both my mental or physical health.  It was nice to know (from the comments that followed) that I wasn’t alone in this frustration.  I’m suspecting that perhaps there is a certain type of person (of which I haven’t yet defined) who just can’t let go of the need to try to make things better in this world.

One of the battles I mentioned in that post was about how news media, social media and some mental health organisations were handling the news  of a suspected suicide of a young woman who had a pretty hard time at the hands of others before she apparently took her own life.  At the time, I made a comment on a blog post hosted by a mental health site but elected not to get involved any further.  As time as gone on though, I have got more concerned by this situation.

I’m purposely not giving specifics here because I refuse to add to the mayhem.  I’m sorry if you find that frustrating.  I guess the issue got personal for me yesterday and I came away from that really worried about the consequences of when things ‘go viral’ on this wonderful invention called the internet.

Yesterday I was asked by another young woman (through social media) to view a video she had made and placed on You Tube.  I was reluctant, but agreed to watch it simply because I was concerned about what message others who I have contact with, might end up watching and possibly be disturbed as a result of viewing.

It was disturbing.  It covered topics of bullying, mental illness and self harm.  It was in a very similar style to the original video I had been concerned about last week.  The video, that I understand has now been freely viewed by more than six million viewers.  After watching the new video I had the opportunity to talk briefly to the young woman who made it, and asked me to watch it.  After setting some boundaries (based on the role that I was in) I asked her what she was hoping to achieve by making and posting the video.  Her reply?

“IDK”

“I don’t know”  Actually as our conversation continued, I became more convinced that she did know, but she just didn’t expect anyone to question her intentions.  I can only guess at her intentions now, because shortly after she ended the conversation (apparently I took the matter too seriously), and she was gone.

I certainly hope that this doesn’t end the way of the original video,  (Please God, no!) which she had pretty much copied, although added that she herself was a bully and individually named some people who she considered were also bullies.   In the time we spoke, I had enough information to be concerned, but not enough to warrant trying to get some professional help for her.  I also didn’t have the time as she elected to end the conversation.  But this much I know… she needs professional help and I hope she reaches out and gets it.

At that point my responsibility had to turn to others who also witnessed my exchange with her (including some who also watched the video and made same connection I did).  Maybe this was all about trying to seek attention?  I don’t know.  If it was, then she got some attention, but perhaps not quite what she was hoping for.

My concern is about how many other hurting people are seeking attention, or crying out in a similar way to the first person?  How many millions watched that first video (perhaps after being encouraged to watch it by media organisations) and assumed this was the way to get noticed, get attention, make someone hear that they too are struggling.  How many chose to self injure, and then show evidence of their injuries because perhaps they got that idea from what they saw?  How many choose to act out suicidal thoughts because they think that is the only way to be noticed, and to end the pain they are in?

When I questioned the author of the original post (from where I had got the original video link), why she had provided her readers with the link to that original video I got the reply that everyone else was doing it so why shouldn’t she.  A further comment to another reader also suggested that young people will see harmful stuff everyday, so somehow it didn’t matter if she encouraged viewing.   She also added that it was the wish of the mother of the dead young woman, that people see and learn about the realities of bullying.

I have no desire to hide from the reality of bullying, mental illness or self harm.  Actually I think it is important that these issues be discussed openly so that we avoid stigma, and also so that the secrets that some people carry with them, do not have to have the harsh consequences of shame.

That said, how these issues are discussed is crucially important in taking care of the people who view.  The mother of the dead woman apparently wanted other parents to watch the video her daughter had made because other parents need to be aware of the risks of bullying.  I totally accept that was her wish, and I don’t mean to criticise that at all.   The problem I have is that those parents are not the only people who watch such videos.

It would be interesting to view some statistics of those who watched the original video.  How old were they?  What was their reason for watching?  Did they have some personal issues of their own which were reflected in the video?  And perhaps most  important to me, did they have somewhere safe they could talk about what they saw?

There are consequences when things go viral.  Both positive and negative.  Yes, we get a message ‘out there’ about the need to stamp out bullying, but we also get already hurting people, hurting more and probably having nowhere to turn to get help and support.  On what do I base my opinion?  That I am fairly sure that had I watched that video five years ago when I was trapped in  self harm behaviour and addiction, I would probably have felt the need to harm myself as a response to what I saw.  Thankfully that is not my reality today, but I suspect for many it would be.

I read an interesting blog post on this subject today. The writer took a different approach to mine, but s/he made a good point:

“We cannot kill the current state of the internet to protect people, because keeping the internet open and free is a great means to protect the very same people.” (1.)

The internet serves a good purpose in providing an access to support for many people.  There is no doubt about that in my mind.  But it can also be an access to triggering and emotionally disturbing material for those same people.

All I would like to see is that both sides of the coin are considered equally.  Personally, I would not have left the original video on You Tube.  It could be useful in some monitored setting, but the potential harm is too much to risk, in my view.  Immediately on viewing it I could recognise that there were potential triggers for people regarding suicide, bullying and self harm.  I am sure it could have been edited to eliminate some of these triggers, but still keey the message her mother wanted.  It could also have had help-line contact details at the end, so that people needing help could access it.

Yes, I am an idealist.  Ideally, this young woman who died would have been spared the pain she went through.  Ideally, she would still be alive today.  Ideally, others would not be traumatised by watching her video.  Ideally, viewers would have got the message that young woman’s mother wanted to get across.  Ideally, the other young woman, with whom I had contact yesterday, would also have found another way to feel loved and important.  Ideally she won’t go on to self harm further, and she will get help.

I know we don’t live in an ideal world, but I am convinced that we can take more care.  When things go viral, we need to consider all the consequences.

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

“When  written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One  represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

 - John F. Kennedy