“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela (1994)
One week removed from the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy at Wembley stadium, the thrill and excitement building up to the game was replaced with disgust and anger at the abhorrent scenes that followed England's penalty shootout defeat. Outside the stadium a series of incidents occurred, not just in the capital, but nationwide, as fans channelled their disappointment at whatever, and seemingly whoever, got in their way. With a range of videos circulating on social media as to the seriousness of their acts, the same fans who were presumably clapping for the NHS no more than a year before, were now putting untold strain on both police and ambulance services.
As if this wasn't enough, fans then took to social media to racially abuse Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford, the three young lions who missed penalties within the shootout. Whilst this abuse is frankly horrific, it has become oh so predictable in modern day society, to the point where, as soon as the telling spot kicks were missed, you could guess what was to follow for these three young men, who are aged 19, 21, and 23 respectively. This was symbolised in Withington, Manchester, where the mural for Marcus Rashford, which was commissioned to celebrate the work Marcus had done in raising in excess of £20m to feed Britain's children, was defaced.
The number of racist incidents recorded by the police in England and Wales has progressively increased over the passing eight years, from 47,548 in 2012, up to 76,070 in 2020 (Statista, 2021). This demonstrates a 59.99% increase in cases, which is again forecast to rise when the figures for 2021 are released later this year. But what has caused this rise, and more importantly how can we combat it?
Well unsurprisingly, the increasing prevalence of social media has of course played a part, whereby 8 in 10 individuals from the LGBTQ+ community had experienced hate crime, and hate speech, online in the last 5 years. Of those individuals, 5 in 10 respondents had experienced online abuse 10 or more times, and 1 in 5 respondents had experienced online abuse more than 100 times (Online Hate Crime Report, 2020). These individuals subsequently suffered from a range of negative emotional responses to their online victimisation, including fear, anxiety, self-blame, fear for their physical safety, and suicidal thoughts.
Often the individuals spouting such vile insults are hidden behind faceless accounts who social media companies allow on to their platform without verification as to who they are, or where they're based. This means that although you will occasionally read about an offender who was tracked down and prosecuted, often many of these individuals go unpunished as they move from one account to another. To combat this, account verification has long been demanded of social media companies, but for one reason or another they have failed to act. This truly boggles the mind, especially when you consider that a non-commercial website like Wikipedia can be updated in minutes to correct anonymous data, yet multi-million pound social media giants fail to either enforce verification, or install a filtering system that removes sensitive comments.
Therefore, with the platforms themselves failing to take action, what can we do to to aid our mental wellbeing and block out the hate? Well often, we're unsure. 91% of victims within the LGBTQ+ community were unaware of an online platforms to report online hate and/or resources designed to support victims of online abuse (Online Hate Crime Report, 2020). To help increase awareness, we've put together some handy tips that we hope can aid anybody in need:
Take a break - Put simply, if you're having a miserable time on a platform, and are finding that your mental health is suffering then take a step back, and give yourself a break for a fixed period of time. This should allow you to reset, concentrate on the things that do brighten your day, and all being well, improve your mood.
Filter it out - Platforms such as Twitter allow you to filter in settings what content you see in your news feed. This allows you to block accounts, and mute words or phrases that you want to avoid. Although this can also be achieved by privatising your various social media accounts so only those who you allow can interact with your content.
Report it - If you are a victim of any kind of abuse, or hate, on social media, it is always important to report it. Further information can be found here.
Seek help - If following a case of abuse you are feeling any of the negative emotions we've discussed higher up in this article, then do not worry, there are people ou there who can support you. Help can be found here.