Kindness in the times of Internet Trolling
"maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam"
Patanjali's yoga sutra 1.33 states, Infusing the mind with friendliness, compassion, cheerfulness, and unresolved observation in relation to those living a happy, miserable, virtuous life, respectively, results in reclaiming a pristine state of mind. This Sutra teaches us to be non-reactive, imbibe the quality of kindness towards ourselves first, and extend it to our friends, neighbors, and even our enemies.
On a spiritual, ethical level, Internet trolling stems from having a lack of compassion, exercising one's own right to freedom of expression and speech, and in turn, forgetting that others fundamentally have the same freedom to express themselves. Some may even argue that it serves to feed the perpetrator's ego and may render him/her a sense of superiority over others.
If you come across something that doesn't resonate with your value system due to your internal belief system, don't repeat it, don't do it, don't entertain it in your life. The solution to Internet trolling is simple in application. We need awareness and mindfulness of our actions to make it a working formula for an accommodating democratic civilization.
Originally supposed to be a medium of social interaction, networking and connection seem to have emerged as a means of engaging in the juvenile journalistic endeavor.
I want to narrate an anecdote from my own life here. A couple of years ago, I happened to post on one of the social media websites, which struck a chord with me. It was the famous words by Pope Francis,"Atheists can be good if they do good," and that religion in itself does not make people noble. I still feel traumatized, remembering how I was attacked by a large section of educated people saying that I intended to propagate Atheism.
I felt the need to be defensive and clarify that I did believe in religion and God, both and eventually had to take the post down.
Recognize the fact that people are entitled to their beliefs and opinion, just the way we are. One may strongly disagree with the other person's subjected opinion based on different religious, political, social, or even moral convictions. It still doesn't warrant a shocking personal attack. No matter what the situation may entail, we can opt to have a kinder reaction.
Legality and Laws protecting against Trolls
The judicial system provides protection and security against Internet stalking and harassment. Unfortunately, most of the pertinent cases never have a day in court. Primarily, people are not aware of their rights concerning the extent of hate crime, which may seem innocent on their face. In most of the cases, otherwise results in something fatal and drastic such as suicide. The penance rendered to the accused is nominal to serve as a lesson to society.
In a recent survey, 28% of Americans admitted they had directed malicious online activity at someone they didn't know.
California's law on stalking is outlined in Penal Code Section 646.9, which makes it a crime to willfully and maliciously harass another person with a credible threat intended to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family.
Violation of Penal Code 646.9 is usually a misdemeanor. However, it can be charged as a felony if the stalking is in violation of a court-issued protective order, or the defendant has a prior conviction for stalking. As a misdemeanor, California cyber-stalking is punishable by one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 fine. Felony penalties for a California stalking conviction can include up to 5 years in state prison.
Freedom of expression remains one of the prominent features of the American constitution. It won't be wrong to say that it outweighs all other rights and is an essential human right, which is crucial for a society to be democratic.The right to freedom of expression is inclusive, but it has limits and can be restricted.
Society as a whole will need to embrace virtues such as compassion and respect towards another human being to limit the harrowing effects of internet trolling. It may be excessive even to demand that from humanity as a whole, considering the large-scale drills of intolerance perpetrated on social media websites. But if each individual is mindful of their reactions, comments, or the impulse to have a backlash attitude, we all can gain from it at the end of the day.
The government will need to come up with more resources towards Internet monitoring, stricter laws, fines, to control the web environment.
Compassion alone can teach us to be happy for people doing noteworthy things and celebrating it on the Internet. The same compassion can teach us to be tolerant of those creating turbulence on the same platform. We can harness our minds to be joyful for people who are doing well in life and empathize with those struggling. Only then can we allow ourselves to immerse in the above Sutra and attain that Yoga state of mind.
(Picture courtesy: BBC)