When does online trolling cross the line?

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The internet is a vast plain filled with people from all backgrounds; different ages, ethnicities and genders, it’s the most diverse “place” of all time. With all the diversity of the internet, comes many differing opinions and personalities, some of which are somewhat similar and others polar opposites.

One side of the internet is the anti-bullying side. This side preaches body positivity and loving oneself. Spreading more love and less hate. This side focuses on getting people to embrace their differences and learning to be more tolerant of others and their differences. 

On the other side, there is the cancel, diss track, roasting, and meme culture. This side pokes fun at others and makes light of more serious issues. 

These two sides are polar opposites in every aspect, but often times it’s the same people on both sides. 

The meaner side of the internet never holds back when it comes to their jokes. Whether it be memes attacking someone’s appearance, harsh comments on someone’s body, or even a diss track making fun of someone else’s social media content. The targets of these jokes could be anyone, but often times it’s a celebrity or social media influencer, someone public out in the open for easy targeting. 

“In all fairness, I think it’s just about views, fun and games and all that, but I think it goes too far when the community that they [the meme, diss track, etc] upload it to takes it too far. In doing that, it can lead to a lot of backlash, a lot of hate. It’s a double edged sword,” junior Patrick Miro said. “There’s a lot of fun stuff about it, but there’s also a lot of hate about it. I do partake in memes and all that, but when it comes to diss tracks or something that can potentially lead to a lot of hate, I tend to stray away.”

Recently, the internet’s picked a new target: Lizzo. A relatively new and up and coming artist whose songs embrace the beliefs of the nicer side of the internet. She, a plus size female herself, promotes body positivity and self love regardless of beauty standards especially in her songs. 

Despite her welcoming demeanor, trolls have not held back the harsh jokes. Most jokes attack her for her size, whether it be in words or using memes and or even both. Although many people mean these comments as a joke, Lizzo has taken them to heart and has decided to take a break from Twitter, tweeting out “Yeah I can’t do this Twitter [expletive] anymore… too many trolls… I’ll be back when I feel it.”

Many of her trolls have taken this as a victory and celebrating with even more crude memes poking at her appearance in the replies of this tweet. 

Although these trolls see it as a harmless joke, the recipient doesn’t usually see it that way. The constant bombardment of comments regarding their physical appearance can take a toll on someone mentally. The more positive side of the internet has tried drowning out the negativity, but the trolls are louder. Twitter itself has even suspended the accounts of some of these trolls as a way to deal with people who violate their policies.

This paints the question, at what point do jokes cross the line and are no longer just harmless jokes, but considered cyber bullying? 

“It depends on what the diss track- or whatever it may be, ends up as. When you go into something super personal about someone, that’s not publicly known, that’s when I would consider it taking it too far.” Miro said, “I think when jokes become cyber bullying is when they take partial parts of the joke and turn that into some kind of hate.”

There’s no clear standard for when jokes become cyberbullying, it’s really up to the person themselves to decide whether or not a joke has gone too far. Despite the varying opinions, trolls will be trolls and will continue to make their jokes regardless of who or what tries to stop them.