When online smack talk ends with a man’s hands around your throat

October 10, 2011, Author: Neil Hughes

Once again, gaming was the talk of the town for the wrong reasons a few weeks ago, thanks to headlines such as “Gamer throttles schoolboy over online war game” spread over the internet. The usual suspects at the Daily Mail reported the story in which a 46-year-old man was playing Call of Duty all day and suddenly lost it when a 13-year-old boy goaded him over his online death in the game. The man went to the nearby house where the boy was playing, walked into the front room and grabbed him around the throat with both hands.

Behind the sensationalist headline, we once again find there is more to this story than the headline originally led their readers to believe. We quickly learned that we were actually dealing with a 46-year-old unemployed father of three with mental issues, who was also a loosely connected friend of the thirteen year old boy’s family and the incident was over a game with an 18 certification.

When looking at the facts of the story, it’s not hard to see that a game such as Call of Duty is not to blame here. Once again, the growing number of social issues that the media prefer to brush under the carpet are caused by evil games, because its easier than tackling the real problems.

Much more interesting though, were the results of a new study that showed that teens were non-bothered by vulgar slurs online. Most realise that everything is said in the name of banter and that deep down, everyone knows they don’t really mean it. That’s according to an Associated Press-MTV poll of young people between 14 and 24.

The article said “Most say they feel more comfortable with slurs online because people are just trying to be funny or cool. Fifty-four percent of young people think it’s okay to use discriminatory language within their circle of friends because people know we don’t mean it.”  In short, it’s become an accepted part of people’s experience online.

It is quite strange to think that there are two worlds out there. You have the real one, where you are unable to you use offensive language as you’ll be perceived as having the character of an uneducated scumbag, and then this alternate world, which serves as a virtual wild west where anything goes. You can say whatever you want, which although you know is wrong, is equally quite liberating.

Of course, there is a seriously dark and sinister side to this online bullying, it’s a growing problem that needs to be taken very seriously. We all know that bullying should never be trivialised or mocked, but this two-sided life in the 21st century is nothing short of fascinating and showcases the hypocrisy of the modern world.

Jay and Silent Bob will hunt down trolls...

Finally, if you are one of the internet tough guys that spends their time online abusing anyone and everyone that they come across, one of those hiding behind the anonymity of your PC because it makes you feel a little better about yourself, helping you forget the fact your life is actually going nowhere. If you are one of these people, then may I remind you of the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back? A movie where the titular duo spend their royalty money on airplane tickets, solely to track down everybody on the internet who expressed negative opinions about them so they could kick their asses.

“It’s just a dumb movie!” I hear you shouting at me. Maybe that’s what the 13-year-old thought, shortly before finding a mans hands around his throat. So, next time you find yourself feeling brave and reckless online, maybe you should have a quick think on what might happen…