The Cyberbullying: Dealing with Trolls panel took place on Sunday at Summer in the City 2019, in Panel Room B. Moderated by Poppy Dillon, it featured Kaya Lili, Calum McSwiggan, Chloe Hodgson, NotCorry, and Lee Hinchcliffe.
The panel went straight in at the deep end, starting by answering the question: what is bullying?
Kaya talked about how being able to post anonymous comments allows people to hide behind the screen, while Corry pointed out that trolls can forget there is a real person reading their comments as they see creators as characters rather than people. Calum added that insecurity needs to be acknowledged particularly when it comes to “cancel culture”, suggesting that some people don’t care about the issue supposedly at hand but rather jump on the bandwagon as a way to make themselves feel better and feel validated.
This paved the way for a discussion of cancel culture, with Kaya advising that there is a difference between calling someone out for doing something wrong and not allowing them to move forward and grow from it. Corry noted that people need to have the ability to learn and move on, while Calum suggested the difference between cancel culture and telling someone they were wrong is that participants get some form of satisfaction from taking part in the former. He said people should genuinely care about the issue and explain to the creator where they went wrong, helping them understand how they can do better, otherwise it will not be productive.
Chloe commented that some people simply thrive off drama, and said it is unfair that people in the public eye get called out for making one mistake when there are others out there who have done the same if not worse. She used the example of Jack Maynard being removed from a TV show over his old tweets, suggesting that it said more about those digging out those tweets than it did of Jack. Corry expanded on this and said a key point of “cancelling” should be removing people who are dangerous to a community from those who are vulnerable, and not allowing them back in while they are working on themselves.
The panellists then moved on to talking about their own experiences with hateful comments, and how they deal with them. Kaya said that when she joined YouTube she already had a thick skin as she already felt different, but recalled a time when she was shown screenshots of people personally attacking her, and said this was the only time she was a little scared to upload. Corry said he finds comedy in the hate comments he receives, stating, “I just find it funny and don’t take it personally”, but he also added that he is mindful of how the comments could affect others who read them – for example, if there are comments relating to sexuality and race, he will delete them so others don’t have to see them.
Calum’s advice was to remember that people are not directing their hate towards you, but rather they are attacking the perception of you, and only your friends and family know who you really are. He said that haters generally appear louder than they actually are, telling the audience that if they all sent him a hate comment at that moment it would seem like a lot more than 50 people when in actual fact it would only be a small number.
When it comes to dealing with negative comments, Kaya said she has learned to turn her notifications off so she doesn’t see any of the comments the moment she wakes up, as she found that would set the tone for the rest of her day. Corry’s advice for the audience was to “cultivate your environment”, reminding them that functions like mute and block can be used to clean up their timelines.
Sometimes people recommend deleting apps from your phone, but Calum said it isn’t that simple. He said that when the hate comments he received were at their peak, he allowed his friends to control his social media so he was able to monitor the situation without having to read the comments himself. Chloe pointed out that it’s hard to delete apps if you work in the world of social media and need to use them regularly, and said the key is not to go looking for hate.
The conversation then turned to whether or not to engage with negative commenters. Kaya advised that she usually stays away, but said there are the odd mornings when she is already in a bad mood and wants to respond. She said she reminds herself that those who do not leave positive comments are looking for a reaction, and have the time to argue with you. Corry compared it to dealing with kids: if a child receives attention for doing something wrong, they are going to keep doing it. Chloe agreed, advising that the best thing to give people who leave negative comments is the silent treatment. She compared it to high school drama: when two people are screaming at each other, it escalates, whereas if one person is screaming and the other responds in a calm manner, the first person doesn’t know how to deal with it and it often won’t go anywhere.
Different platforms have different functions which can be used to try and help the situation. Instagram, for instance, flags up when a comment appears to be negative and urges users to think twice before posting. Calum noted that social media platforms have plenty of clever, technically-minded people working for them, and said more time could be devoted to solutions like these. Talking about blacklisting certain words from comments, Chloe noted that this will not necessarily work as it depends on the context in which they are being said, and Calum agreed, pointing out that some of those words could be used when you are lovingly teasing friends.
The panel ended with the question, “What advice would you give your younger self?” The panellists stated they would tell their younger counterparts to be more mindful of what they are tweeting and how they judge others.
With tips and advice from Panel Room B, we felt equipped to deal with the hate and spread a little bit of love!
Photos by George Yonge.
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