Believe

Oh look, July.

I’ve joined a group of people who have decided to try to do something positive on the back of the Gaming #MeToo Implosion. Their plan is to make sure that online spaces have rules that make it easier for people to know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. It’s a brilliant idea, and I feel somewhat underqualified being involved.

My experience however spans four decades. I used to moderate back in the 1990’s, briefly voted onto a group involved in keeping UK Usenet in check… and then I resigned. I remember now the reason why, the abuse that would clog up my dial up, when the phone started ringing at home, I’d answer, then the abuser on the other end would hang up.

This shit really has been going on for two centuries.

Rules are great, and it makes it easier to effectively maintain safe spaces, but they don’t identify why it is people choose to break them. In all of these high profile cases, all the rules in the world would not have prevented predators preying. Sure it might have sent them somewhere else, but really that won’t solve the underlying issues.

Last night I got taken to task (quite rightly) for flippantly suggesting that people were stupid. Without context, yes, it is an insult. However, when you add context, stupidity is quite easy to identify and even easier to expose. The world, like it or not, will never be as black and white as so many of us wish it was. All of us have moral dilemmas to address.

What happens when your own brain can’t do that for you?

All of this, like it or not, comes back to mental health. It is the lynchpin of so many other issues, and getting people to talk about it freely has been almost impossible for decades. Slowly, surely, the stigma begins to relax, to the point where, during lockdown, I was approached and asked if I could recommend some resources on how to cope mentally with what is going on.

That’s when the daily Mental health Tweet was born.

Yesterday, for the first time, one of the organisations I reference took the time to reply to the thread with additional resources. It’s a slow, measured process of just making sure the information remains active in both my timelines. I’m not pushing into conversations and asking how people are. That’s not how the Internet works.

However, if I see someone retweet the information, or I sense by their tweets that maybe they could do with someone to talk to, I’ll ask in public. I’ll make DM’s open to them. There will be a willingness to help and support as much as I can. I know this happens on servers and in gaming guilds and clans, but it doesn’t happen enough. People need to care about others, not just themselves.

There needs to be those willing to try to spot issues before they escalate.

It’s a tough job. Over the last three and a bit decades, it has undoubtedly affected me. People have threatened to hurt my kids, attack my husband… and yeah, I get why they’d want to do that to me. I won’t give them what they want, the belief that somehow they control me. They don’t. None of them do. I am my own person, and I always will be.

Abuse comes in many forms, people. It isn’t just pictures, it isn’t just verbal. EVERYBODY needs to do better, and if that’s ever going to mean change, all the rules in the world are pointless if the people who are supposed to live by them don’t understand that sometimes, brains just break. When that happens, we ALL need to gather round and deal with the consequences.

Mental health is the conversation we ALL need to be having.