For all the wonderful things the Internet gives us — global communication, information at our fingertips, the opportunity to spread awareness — there’s also an awful flip side to the technology. And that’s the people who use the web to deliberately attack one another with a few simple (often, anonymous) keystrokes.
Unfortunately, Megan Davies Mennes, a mother of a one-year-old son with Down Syndrome, knows this all too well.
After the English teacher and blogger posted an Instagram photo of her son Quinn (who had just recovered from a week-long bout of illness) with the hashtag #downsyndrome, an anonymous commenter named @JusesCrustHD wrote, “Ugly.”
But Mennes didn’t let this cyber bully have the last word, writing a powerful open letter that was recently picked up by the Huffington Post. In her correspondence, she calls out the user for purposely seeking out the hashtag to make derogatory comments behind the anonymity of a screen name.
The whole letter is definitely worth the read, but here is where she hits the nail on the head as to why Internet trolls aren’t worth anyone’s time or emotional distress: “I recognize that you want to see me get worked up about your little ‘joke.’ I’ll be honest; it’s hard not to be angry about it, but I can’t allow myself to carry that weight on my shoulders. I can’t allow myself to feel anything but sorry for an individual with so little tact. Because in end, you will be the one to face the consequences of your choices someday. There are few people in this world who tolerate that kind of backwards thinking, and you’ll eventually mouth off to the wrong person. My guess is that you already have, which is why you hide behind a screen name.”
She continues, “God knows there were plenty of cruel adolescent boys in my time: boys who took pleasure in pranks and jokes at others’ expense. There were even a few of them that were directed at me, but it gave me tough skin and I grew from the experience of facing such mistreatment. Maybe that’s why I’m willing to let this one go; I know where most of those boys ended up, and it’s nowhere I’d want to be. And as a teacher, I’ve seen kids like you crash and burn. Go outside. Read a book. Compliment someone. Most importantly, enlighten yourself; there’s already enough cruelty in this world, and anyone worth their salt should be striving to make this place better, not worse.”
In the end, Mennes takes the high road and wishes the user the best: “I simply hope my own children learn to look past ignorant comments and actions and treat others with respect and dignity. We all deserve it, even you.”