“Real people are behind game development, with real feelings” – The role of social media in online abuse

With the issue of online abuse back in the spotlight, we take a look at how social media can play a role in damaging vulnerable individuals, and what can be done about it

The untimely and tragic death of Caroline Flack has again highlighted the impact of online abuse – particularly via social media – on the lives of those in the spotlight. While Twitter and Instagram have more recently been full of beautiful words about the TV presenter and her life, you only have to scroll back a few weeks to see the awful and vitriolic messages thrown at her and about her.

We will never know what was going on in her mind and heart leading up to the moment she believed that taking her own life was the only way forward. Some have blamed the tabloids for ‘hounding’ her throughout her career; but the impact of an almost constant tirade of abuse via social media channels on someone who was very fragile and vulnerable at the time can surely not be under-estimated.

The hashtag #BeKind began trending almost as soon as news emerged of Flack’s death and it began to feel like the social media ‘keyboard warriors’ were feeling some remorse. But for how long?

And in games – where female and LGBTQ industry professionals are particularly targeted – has there really been any change in attitude on Twitter et al on the back of the #BeKind initiative?

With even the Pope urging people to stop Twitter trolling for Lent, surely – in his words – this “is a time to give up useless words”?

Claire Sharkey – Founder of Sharkbit; PR and marketing at The Irregular Corporation

Claire Sharkey
Claire Sharkey

There’s a sense that we have to form decisions or take action instantly. The healthiest thing we can do is take time to research or even step back completely from using social media as a barometer for truth. Find multiple sources and apply empathy. No one is infallible and for every pro of social media being ingrained in society today there are many detrimental cons.

Robin Gray – Founder, Gayming Magazine

Robin Gray
Robin Gray

As the Editor of Gayming Magazine, I see first-hand the comments and tweets my female-identifying contributors receive in response to their views. When we feature articles written by female-identifying contributors about female issues in games, they are regularly shouted down by others (usually men) on social media and told they are wrong. Most of these people hide behind anonymous profiles and I feel that social media companies must do more to ensure that everyone who registers for an account must be fully identifiable and accountable.

Tamsin O’Luanaigh – CoSec & talent director, nDreams

Tamsin O’Luanaigh
Tamsin O’Luanaigh

I often see criticism of people’s games and hard work on social media, or credit given to some team members with others not seen as ‘worthy contributors’. It should be highlighted that real people are behind game development, with real feelings… The level of abuse can be damaging & nobody should be subjected to that.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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