I was lucky enough to watch the live performance of Canada’s Bronze olympian, Kim Boutin, in the Speed Skate short performances. I say lucky because when the beast of social media rears its ugly head, which it did here (why should the Olympics be immune?), I feel grateful that I witnessed an incredible and inspiring competition before death threats flew like poisonous spears from “sour grapes” fans.
Speed Skating short distance is like Roller Derby on ice. Physical contact is allowed but strictly monitored, with rules for every touch. Fascinating and fast. When Kim Boutin took the Bronze because of a disqualifying push by the 2nd place korean skater, outraged fans went crazy with online abuse and threats against Boutin. Because I saw the competition and heard the commentator explain the rules, the re-play showed what was obviously an illegal push. However, the pace of the skate is so fast and intense, it’s a fine line of aggression that any of the athletes have to balance all the time. One of our other Canadians was DQ’d in the preliminary round for an illegal grab. Sh*t happens. Should that result in death threats to a 23-year-old girl?
Social media has become the big bully in the playground who can count on everyone to gather ’round in support. Fight! Fight! Fight!…Like! Like! Like! Social media is the right of the offended to stand on their Soap Box and kick sand in the face of whoever they decide deserves it, at the slightest of offenses. We’ve taken the playground bully to the internet. Name calling, reputation smearing, threats, accusations, gossip, rumours…anything goes, mostly by adults who would ground their children for doing the same.
Our world has become a landscape of petty accusers, sore losers and validation-seeking attention junkies. It’s time we the crowd of bystanders watching the bleeding kid in the dirt (feeling glad it wasn’t us, let’s be honest, but also a little ashamed that we didn’t stop it) – it’s time for people to speak up, to say “enough”. I personally know a few who recently did that, publicly and privately, and I see more people doing it every day. Maybe the tide of tolerance is turning. Not soon enough for Kim Boutin. Or for others who make the news every day in heartbreaking headlines. At one point, our society has to reach its threshold of public tantrums, to speak against platforms of destruction, to protect the greater good instead of tolerating harm. We must choose a better world. To quote one of the fundamental principles of the Olympics, entrenched in their Charter:
“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development
of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the
preservation of human dignity.”
Preserving human dignity instead of shredding it, now that’s something to post about. “Like”.