A few weeks ago, this agency took a stand on online bullying. We are no longer sitting on the sidelines, silently watching. We’re going to act. We’re going to talk about it, respond when we see it happening, blog about it, and try to further the discussion in and outside of the agency.

I’m appalled at the mob mentality sometimes seen on social media. To be honest, I’m also fascinated by it. What drives this kind of pile-on hatred? Is this the society we’ve become? Or have we always been secret haters who now have a public platform where we can widely spew our misanthropy? As Jon Ronson points out in his book —”So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed“— humans have been publicly shaming other humans for centuries – from public whippings to scarlet letters. In each case – these practices have been stopped. And so must public shaming on the internet.

Of particular concern is the ability to hate someone “anonymously.” Why do so many have the propensity to say things behind cover they would never say publicly? Is this part of our DNA? I don’t feel like it’s part of mine. Most people I know would never do it. But, boy, there sure are a lot of people piling on hate, day after day after day. What gives?

I’m appalled and frankly disgusted on so many levels about:
• The disregard and disrespect some people have for one another
• Our collective lack of empathy for mistakes, especially by young people. (Thank goodness no one was around to record things I stupidly did and said when I was 17!)
• So many lives ruined – literally ruined, with people locking themselves in their homes for fear of threats they’ve received online
• Parents who don’t monitor their children’s online behavior; get a clue!
• The things boys say to young women with sexual and violent overtones
• The teen suicide rate by children who have been shamed

What is going on here? Or, as Curt Schilling said recently in a blog post responding to online attacks of his daughter, “In what world could this possibly be okay?”

Especially despicable are the cowards who hide behind anonymity with fake names and emails. If you don’t have the guts to say it publicly, don’t hide like a weasel and say it anonymously. It’s more than cowardly. It’s criminal because victims can’t defend themselves against anonymous lies. The defense to libel is truth, but how do you sue someone you cannot see?

I’m perplexed, frustrated and appalled. But I do have one hope. The groundswell to stop the haters is growing, and if it doesn’t stop, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook will lose credibility – and fans. That makes it a business issue, not just a social one, and business issues drive change. Executives at popular social media channels must get together and find a way collectively to make it stop. If they can’t do it because it’s the right thing, hopefully they’ll do it because it’s the profitable thing long term.