The internet is a dangerous place to be.
While it’s easy to point to a single cause of the rise in online harassment and abuse, it’s the sheer number of people on the internet that is causing it.
The internet can be a place where we’re bombarded with messages from strangers, and where we can be vulnerable to being targeted, said David O’Brien, a professor of communication at the University of Melbourne.
“It’s a place we can’t hide behind,” he said.
“We have to make sure we understand that the people that are attacking us are not the ones that we want to be friends with, and that we’re not going to like them, but that we should treat them respectfully and in a way that is respectful and in keeping with our values.”
A lot of the hate speech online has a lot to do with people who are unhappy with the way they feel about certain things, like the death of a colleague, Mr O’Connor said.
While some people may be motivated by a particular issue or perceived to be on the wrong side of history, it doesn’t always have to do, he said, adding that “people can be motivated because of a combination of things”.
In the past, the internet has been used to promote certain ideas, like feminism, he explained.
“There’s a lot of things that are out there that people can be interested in, and they can also be out there because they’re looking for something that is a little bit more ‘safe’,” he said.
“The internet also has a way of bringing people together, said Mr O” people who have never met before.
“You can go to Facebook, and if there’s a group that you’re into, you can talk to them, and you can tell them about the topic that you are into,” he explained, adding “I think people just really want to connect.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
You can also find advice from other ABC News contributors, including the ABC’s own senior social media correspondent, Catherine Hardwicke.
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