“Tell us more about your work as an anti-hate activist and what myths you’d want to bust or lessons you’d want to share.”
Totally! First off, let me say that this is such a good question (thanks for asking!). As a brief overview: I first got into this work when I was just 13 years old. Realizing that digital hate was, in many ways, a silent pandemic, I decided to act — and launched ReThink, an innovative technology that stops cyberbullying before it happens. In the 8 years since, I’ve led ReThink as its grown and been a vocal advocate for a more kind, inclusive internet. Through it all, I’ve uncovered many important anti-hate lessons, many more than I can share with you today. But as this week’s TikTok highlights, there are 3 that tend to come up the most in my conversations with fellow GenZers:
Myth-buster: Bullies are not “bad people.” Often, when I talk with young people about anti-hate work, there seems to be this misconception that tackling hate is about “punishing” supposedly irredeemable bullies. In fact, research finds that cyberbullies are often former victims of hate: folks who have been harassed, teased, and demeaned. In their anger, they take it out on other people, creating a vicious cycle. Of course, some bullies make heartbreaking, horrific, hard-to-justify choices, but many are simply lashing out from a place of insecurity. The TLDR, then, is in thinking about tackling online hate, we should be thinking about ways to support folks that don’t have an outlet for the challenges they experience in life. That support can be as simple as reminding them that they’re better than an offensive message — and that they can make a better decision.
All-important lesson: Being an anti-hate advocate starts with you. The most common question I get when chatting with young people about anti-hate work is: “What can I do to take action on hate?” Many folks are surprised when I suggest that they look inwards. All of us (even me!) have said something (whether in-person, or online) that we later regretted. The best way you can contribute to a hate-free internet is thinking before you type. Take a second, pause, and ask yourself: “Am I sure I want to say this?” (And if you need help, you can always download the ReThink app to assist you!) You should also reflect on the way you set an example within your digital communities. When you see something inappropriate in a chat group, do you say something? Or do you choose to be a bystander? The first option might be a bit more uncomfortable, but it allows you to make a powerful positive impact — both in the moment and in the actions you inspire in the future.
Most-asked personal question: Has this work ever meant that you’ve been targeted, harassed, or teased online? Unfortunately, yes. 🙁 #argh For all of you fellow anti-hate advocates out there, I always like to remind myself that history tells us that anything worth doing will always face resistance…but we must challenge, test, and break the status quo. And indeed, the impact I’ve been able to make has made it all 100% worth it.
I hope you enjoyed hearing a little more about me, my work, and what I’ve learned along the way! (And if you did, definitely share this week’s Ask Trish video on social!) Personally, I really enjoyed being able to do something a little different from our traditional weekly post. With that said, I know many of you have internet-related questions, thoughts, or tricky scenarios to share…so go right ahead and do that, right here. Remember, not only is submitting a note a great way to get some advice (your topic might be the focus of an upcoming TikTok/blog post!), but a chance to help other folks wondering the same things.
I’ll see you all again next week! Can’t wait,