There was an article today in the New York Times by Amy O’Leary entitled “In Virtual Play, Sexual Harassment is All Too Real.” Click on the title for the link to the article. From that article, I followed a link to this article (which you can read by clicking the title) by Erin Kissane entitled “How to Kill A Troll.” Both articles describe online communities that have sexual harassment as part of their culture.
You might think this is trivial because, as many people have said to me, “all you have to do is not take it so personally or alternatively: log off, change your screen name, or block the harassing person,” but it’s not. It’s not as easy as that, although I’m sure many wish it were. This sexual harassment goes beyond in-game into the real world where women and others who differ from the majority receive threats, are stalked, hacked and abused. It is either accepted in these communities or it goes on without comment and is ignored as people choose to stay out of it.
It is something that everyone should be aware of. It is something that everyone should actively pursue as a target for change. Why? Today more people (and a whole hell of a lot of children) are spending their time online socially (in chat rooms, on facebook, twitter, and other social sites all of which have been brought up in the news at some time for someone harassing someone else) and in gaming of some sort and the question I have to ask is do you want your child, niece, nephew, or any child you are acquainted with exposed to those things? Is it an issue you’d like for your daughter or son (at any age) to experience? My guess is no, you would not want anyone sexually harassing or otherwise harassing anyone you know, including yourself. So, therefore, it really should be important to you as well.
You might say that no one you know plays any type of online game and so, therefore, it is of no concern to you. I say it is. I say it is because if it can happen so easily, so frequently, and be ignored for so long in online gaming, chat rooms, and on social sites, can’t that be happening in other places online and can’t there be a potential for that to spread throughout all of the internet. Can’t it become so ubiquitous as to ingrain itself into the whole culture? Take a pause and think about that for a minute or two. Globally throughout the internet is that what you want to spread or to be spread as an acceptable general internet behavior?
There is a good point that author Erin Kissane makes about internet culture in general “[c]ivility isn’t fancy-talk for “being nice.” It’s the essential quality we require to live together in complex social structures built on our jumpy, irrational primate brains. Online, where we increasingly live, we need it more than ever.”