*Strong trigger warning*
The following article relates to bullying, hate-speech, offensive language, and suicide.
Let me jump to the crux of this article;
It is NEVER OK to bully someone or tell them to take their life.
This week I’ve experienced a bombardment of online hate messages.
Bullying, harassment, trolling, cyber stalking… whatever one labels it, it is NEVER OK.
I tweeted on Monday and then went offline to do farm chores. We have some students out here this week getting amongst nature, as well we are constructing a wildlife rehabilitation enclosure… so there were tasks to do away from the screen.
It wasn’t until later when I received two messages in my inbox that I realised something was going on. One email read, “…be assured you are not alone”, and the second one read, “…F* you and your cult.”
I went back to my online post. Attached to it were hundreds and hundreds of comments, and unfortunately, a lot of them could only be described as vile ugly hate-spitting.
Now, I want to make this clear; I’m not writing this piece for sympathy or a pat on the back. I am writing this because I want to make the following point as clear as day…
Bullying and telling someone to take their life is NEVER OK.
Not now. Not ever. Not for any topic. Not to anyone. It is NEVER OK.
I also believe that bullying should not be ignored or swept under the rug.
It should be called out and castigated for what it is; abhorrent.
The toxicity around climate change that has been popularised and normalised by some politicians, public figures and media outlets is totally unacceptable. These people and platforms have encouraged the hate-spitting. They have cheered it on. Why? Because division and fighting, ‘them versus us’, distracts from the main issue; the matter of actually doing something about the climate crisis. And they also do it for the cheap twisted thrills that bullies get from inflicting hurt on others and for the attention and sneering grins by their cowardly followers.
Not a single one of the hate-spitters actually asked me to elaborate on my post; to understand the layers of meaning behind the words, what prompted me to write it, or why the photos had been taken or even where they were located. No curiosity, no desire to understand, just a pre-formed opinion with heavy bitter judgement and spite.
If someone had asked, I would have explained that I posted this because I recognise that I am very much part of the global human collective, a contributing member of the human system causing anthropogenic climate change, and I acknowledge my responsibility as an individual to try to look after our social and environmental systems, as challenging as it can feel at times. I would have explained that the photos were taken during a heart-wrenching drought, a drought that led me to get counselling and the science tells me these dry times are getting worse because of climate change. The photos were taken on my family’s farm, a place I had described in my previous tweet as, “My home reminds me every single day why I fight for climate action. To protect this incredible, beautiful, fragile planet and all the life it holds.”
But no one asked.
And the post content became irrelevant to the bully-fest response.
Amy Jayne ‘Dolly’ Everett was from a Northern Territory cattle farm.
She took her own life when she was just 14 years old due to ongoing bullying.
Dolly’s parents set up ‘Dolly’s Dream’ to start a nationwide conversation about the devastating effects of bullying, because suicide is the highest killer of young Australians. And young people are nine times more likely to die by or consider suicide when they have been bullied.
Dolly’s Dream is committed to changing the culture of bullying by addressing the impact of bullying, anxiety, depression and youth suicide through education and direct support to young people and families.
It is a cause and a dream that many rural people I know hold closely in their hearts.
This is the Dolly’s Dream website: https://dollysdream.org.au/
What to do
If you are being bullied or are witnessing bullying; speak up, let someone else know, call it out, and seek professional support.
On social media there are ways to report and block accounts. Do it.
Be kind. Be kind to yourself, to others, to the natural world around you.
Bullying is NEVER OK.
I will continue to be myself and believe in myself, surround myself with good people, and be grounded by the rural landscape around me. And every day I will continue to work on issues that I know are important. I will help address the climate crisis with the millions of others, and I will condemn hate and division for all its ugliness. We have a beautiful planet to look after and each other to take care of.
For in the words of Dolly, “Speak even if your voice shakes.”
Update 2nd December 2022
Since the incident, I have been working with researchers from Federation University on the identification, motives and responses to cyber abuse. I am thankful to the researchers, and all people, who are working to prevent online harassment and help those who experience it.