Dear Sailing Forum Cyber Bully,
Yes you. You know I mean you. You hang out on the forums and like to pounce on the noobs and the figjams, the naive and the bloviators, the lame and the weak. You delight in showing off your knowledge, your wit, your ability to coin a snappy insult. You are the master of the put-down and the jeer. You play to the gallery and love it when all the other bullies pile on to the same victim.
It feels good doesn't it? I know. I've done my share of making fun of some of the pretentious, know-all, self-important idiots who post on those forums. There's a special sadistic pleasure in crafting a carefully phrased put-down to one of these fools.
But wait. There's a real person with real feelings behind that screen name. Have you ever thought about what impact your sarcastic remark will have on that person? You don't know who they are, what they are like, what's going on in their life right now.
Maybe the bozo that you called a "retard" is really some 12-year-old kid in special education? Maybe the fool with the lame question that you called "gay" is some teenager struggling with his sexual identity in a homophobic fundamentalist religious family who preach to him that homosexuality is a mortal sin? Maybe the guy with self-important delusions whose balloon you love to burst is suffering from some real mental illness and has just lost his job, his wife and his home?
Still feel so good about being a bully?
Well, just consider this. There have been several reports in the last few months of teenagers who committed suicide after suffering from various varieties of "internet harassment". How would you like to have that on your conscience?
You see, no matter how pompous, ignorant, lame or obnoxious a poster on a forum may appear to be, you have no idea who that person really is, what is going on in their life right now, or what their mental condition is. If they are suffering from clinical depression do you want to be the one responsible for pushing them over the edge?
Have you ever stopped to think that the folk on these forums who seem to be the most weird, the most delusional, or the most pathetic are actually the ones that may be suffering from a real mental illness? If you and the other bullies stick the knife into one of these sorry souls then is it possible that you may push them into taking some drastic action? Suicide? Going postal? Shooting up the local mall?
And if you are tempted to be one of the many cyber bullies pouring scorn on a certain sailor attempting to spend 1000 Days at Sea, have you paused to consider that his obvious weirdness may be the sign of mental instability, that he is now facing two years alone at sea without his former sailing companion, and that adding to the pressures on him may not be the wisest move? Do you want to be responsible for causing another Donald Crowhurst tragedy?
Just my two pennorth. Feel free to bully me in the comments. I can take it.