5 things to consider before you have a go at someone online

We’ve been made aware of some negative and aggressive behaviour from students towards other students on social media over the past month.

If you have participated in or are planning to embark on an ill-fated crusade as keyboard warrior that targets a fellow student, we highly recommend you don’t, and we ask that you consider a few things beforehand.

This article focuses on targeted abusive behaviour online that put an individual’s safety at risk. We want to make it clear that respectful, well-reasoned debate is completely acceptable and encouraged.

1. Who do my comments affect?

Any 12-year old with access to a laptop can create a mean meme and angrily fire it off into the comment section to get kudos from other trolls. The problem with trolling others at Uni, is that you’re not trolling the latest Trump post or a large faceless corporation, you’re trolling someone within the small community that you are a part of. That means you’re engaging in a potentially abusive exchange with someone you may be sitting next to in a lecture or a tutorial when you return to campus.

Those on the receiving end of your comments are also stuck at home facing many of the same challenges you are, isolated from friends, reading your nasty comments. Are you comfortable with this? We hope not, because it’s not acceptable.

If you are, we have a free counselling service available to all students, that may help you address some of the issues behind this negative behaviour.

2. Am I a troll?

Don’t be arrogant enough to think that you don’t look like an idiot on social when throwing shade at others. You do.

Here’s how to work out if you are a troll. You are a troll if:

  • you’re aggressively targetting someone online
  • you’re the person you roll your eyes at when scrolling through the comments section
  • You’re the moron 5G/Bill Gates friend who makes you say ‘FFS’ out loud over breakfast

Again, if you’re a troll and want to examine what’s led you to this fate, we have a free counselling available to all students that may help you get to the bottom of this.

3. How does it make me look?

Would you start screaming disparaging and negative remarks into the faces of those who disagree with you while you are on campus? Nope? If you’re doing this in a Facebook group, more people will witness your behaviour, and there is a written record.

Being abusive towards others online is never okay, it can be recorded and cause irreparable damage to your reputation. This damage can then limit your career opportunities and prospects once you’ve graduated.

It’s also worth noting that you have rights and responsibilities regarding your behaviour as a La Trobe student (online and offline). If you don’t observe the Student Charter it can have serious consequences.

If you want to engage in healthy debate online, it’s best to carefully consider what you’re posting and ask yourself some important questions before posting.

  • Would I say this face-to-face?
  • Is my comment or post hurtful to someone else?
  • Am I addressing the topic or targeting an individual?
  • Is my argument reasonable or am I being aggressive?
  • How will this comment or post reflect on me in the community?

4. Will this undermine my argument or cause?

If you feel incredibly passionate about something, aggressively ridiculing or targeting others in the name of your cause won’t win favour with many people. This type of negative behaviour can often undermine your argument or campaign.

Before commenting or debating in online forums, stop and think about what you’re saying, how you’re framing it and if it adds anything to the existing debate.

5. Am I being respectful?

La Trobe is commited to building a respectful, safe and secure community for every student, staff member and visitor to the University. We’re always working to ensure all are valued, included and supported and we will continue to recognise and celebrate our differences as a strength. Everyone in our community has a role to play – including you.

All we ask is for you to make sure you’re familiar with cyberbullying/online safety, our Student Charter and you’re generally behaving like a good person.