My musings posts are simply my thoughts put down on page, for myself more than anything else. That being said, I love to chat about the things I’m thinking about so feel free to comment and help me out!
In my spare time I’m a PC gamer (yes, I’m a middle aged mum who plays video games) and I help out with a local gaming community (mostly online, with some in person meetings). Recently, a group of (late teen) members of the community had a disagreement with the organiser (mid 40s) regarding the implementation of some rules. These weren’t some crazy rules, like “You must only wear blue socks when playing Call of Duty”, I’d protest that. Purple is clearly the best colour. The rules were about clamping down on serious homophobia, racism and sexism in regards to casual usage and jokes. A lot of inappropriate jokes were being bandied about that had offended other members. Then the offending lot got offended that people were being offended and when the owner stepped in and said “That’s enough lads”, they exploded with an extreme and to my view, disproportionate response.
I understand that teenagers and young adults can be volatile and haven’t yet fully managed to control their emotions, but the response scared me (mentally, not physically). Not only did they respond by insulting and abusing just about everyone they could and storming out, but then they took to Twitter to target members with their anger. What a load of stress and hassle, all over being asked not to make incredibly offensive racist jokes in a community space.
Even after declaring they would not be returning, they put their time and effort into trying to damage the community for others in self destructive behaviour that only lost them friends and kept them dwelling on their negative thoughts. Is it possible to change that in the moment? Could I have done anything to help them see things differently? I did try and keep the peace; but I was insulted and yelled at for my troubles.
Why did this scare me?
It scared me because I have a son, and working with these younger people (mind you, these are not children, they are over 18!) made me worry about whether this will be my son when he reaches this age. It made me think about the sort of things that will become normal to him both online and when he’s with his friends. If their parents could see the sort of things they were saying online, how would they feel? Would they be as horrified as me?
- Will he think this response is appropriate?
- Will he think that joking about Nazi’s being cool and his friend’s mum getting raped will be funny?
- Will he think sharing photos of dead children and joking about sex abuse is cool? (Yes, that happened).
- Will he yell and abuse people in public when he disagrees with something?
- When asked politely to stop doing something offensive by an authority figure will he react with anger and insults?
- Even days later when he’s had time to cool off, will he be mouthing off online, on Twitter and Facebook?
- Will he be unable to see other peoples points of view and have a reasoned discussion?
- Will he be disrespectful to others when challenged?
Is it the internet that led to them thinking these things were okay? Was it forums, or reddit, or the games themselves? (I’m very pro-gaming by the way!) What steps does a person go through where they can mock genuine rape victims and laugh at the parents of dead children and say “It’s just jokes, you can’t stifle us. Free speech! Down with authority!” Didn’t free speech used to actually be meaningful and not just an excuse to offend whoever you fancy? Do all young people go through this anti-authority stage and if there’s nothing meaningful to protest they’ll find the drama anywhere?
I am not that old (honestly!). One of these people is less than 10 years younger than me. I’m from their generation technically speaking; although I do accept there’s a big mental difference between 20 and 30… yet I find these things completely and utterly unacceptable.
It’s a minefield for me. This led me on to thinking about what my son will be exposed to online and how I instill in that this isn’t acceptable. Here I am – worrying about the next 15 years of parenting, when tonight William will be trying to eat his first carrot! Am I crazy?
I’m NOT blaming the parents of these people (I don’t know them or what their upbringing was, it may have been perfect) for the way they reacted so perhaps the reality is, there is little I can do. And maybe these folks will grow up a little and when they’re older, with jobs and girlfriend and maybe even a family of their own, they’ll think “Damn, what an idiot I was!” After all, I did some dumb things at 18 too and must have had my mum pulling her hair out! It’s still going to keep me up at night though, now and again.