Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. The unassailable power that can take down autocratic dictators can also be used to scar an innocent soul. So, I want to talk about one of the most prolific ways to exercise you your freedom of speech: memes, jokes, basically any form of content on the internet today with the intention to make people laugh. Many would read the preceding sentence and instantly call me a snowflake. And that’s exactly the point. Am I snowflake or am I just considerate of people’s feelings? Is your so-called “Dark Humour” a character trait or are you just a douche?
First, we need to learn to distinguish between banter and bullying. You mock a friend because of his pretentious accent, he mocks you back. That’s banter, cheerful, playful, and ultimately beneficial to your mental health. But imagine this, you and your friends ganged up to repeatedly mock a little girl because of her “pretentious” (according to you) accent. Remember people online doing exactly this a few days back and flooding your Facebook news feeds? That’s not fun or playful, that’s textbook bullying. A little girl tried to educate people about a foreign accent and people tried to shred her image to pieces. And though they like to pretend that they did this from the frustration of a social stigma about accents stemming from our Stockholm syndrome towards the British, that’s no excuse to go full Super Saiyan on a singled out individual online, let alone a child. People bullied her to feel superior and made up the excuse to feel better about themselves. This is the exact mindset of a bully, a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable and feel a sense of superiority. You can also see similarities between cyber-bullying through meme culture and real-life bullying in ganging up on a person, basically asphyxiating him from all corners.
“So, can we not joke about anything now?” Of course, we can. There’s no harm in seeing the lighter side of things, but not at the cost of trivializing the struggles of others. And yes, sometimes, people will just take offense for no reason, but it’s really not that difficult to notice if you’re the one being a moron or the one taking the offense. But when you single out a person or a group of people based on a certain trait or a deed and repeatedly attack the person masquerading it as humor, that has certain implications on that person and his mental health, the responsibility of which you feel like you can avoid taking because of the anonymity the internet avails.
“You are a snowflake. You can’t take a joke.” Look, maybe you have a thick skin and you can take any joke aimed at you without feeling attacked, and honestly, that is a quality I highly admire. But it’s foolish of you to except everyone around you has just as much tolerance towards offensive jokes and personal attacks as you do, and inconsiderate and uncompassionate of you to disregard their feelings. It’s high time we kill the culture of labeling people as snowflakes to justify our ill actions.
And, if you are a novice to all of this considering others’ feelings before making a joke about the thing, here are some basic guidelines you could follow for a start. Don’t attack someone because just because of his or her lifestyle offending you. Don’t attack someone because of his or her weight, skin color, religious belief, gender, or sexual orientation. Don’t attack someone just because he or she is famous and you don’t like it, don’t attack someone famous thinking it won’t affect him or her just because he or she is famous. And, you should be good to go. Well, at least, for a start.
Here’s to a utopian future where online humor coexists with compassion.