How do you cross the line from calling-out to bullying?

BEFORE the Internet became everyone’s birthright, a celebrity or politician involved in a scandal would have had to endure weeks of being in newspapers until the next big issue came along. Or until another public figure made a mistake. Or had a deep dark secret revealed.

That’s not the case anymore. A public figure who is called out on the Internet would have it coming via different channels. If he or she is extra unlucky, even relatives and friends will be bashed. Wikipedia describes call-out culture as the “social phenomenon of publicly denouncing perceived racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry. Denunciation can happen in person or online.”

Recently, several YouTube stars based in the United States have been called out on the Internet because of some old tweets of theirs that were dug up. It all started when YouTube star Gabriel Zamora posted a picture of himself with Manny Mua, Laura Lee and Nikita Dragun on Twitter accompanied by a caption that seemed to throw shade at Jeffree Star. The picture showed them sticking up their middle finger.

So what happened next?

Star’s fans dug up old tweets of the four and some of those tweets were apparently racist. In 2012 Laura Lee wrote: “Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.”

Between the four (Manny Mua, Lee, Dragun and Zamora), they’ve lost thousands of followers and endorsement and collaboration deals, including Lee with retailer Ulta Beauty. Such is the power of the call-out culture.

In the Philippines YouTube star Michelle Dy also got embroiled in a copyright controversy with Star, something for which she has already apologized. After that, she was in a Twitter war of sorts with Anna Cay, who made a series of tweets which seemed to refer to Dy. No tagging was involved, however.

I don’t appreciate racism or any form of discrimination or bigotry, and I understand that call-out culture is needed. But how is it when the line between calling-out and bullying has been crossed?

In the Philippines the bashers of this female star dug up her old tweets. By old, I mean she was only 15 years old when she wrote those tweets, included some cussing and dissing certain stars and even members of her family. This girl is near in age to my daughter and I do know that when they were 15 or thereabouts, they would post the weirdest things online. They didn’t know any better. We were lucky there was no Internet to document what we were doing while we were growing up because I think we did even crazier things then.

In the case of this star, I think her bashers have definitely crossed the line when they involved her friends and even ex-boyfriends. They can hate her, that’s their right, but to attack what she did when she was a minor is very wrong, in my opinion.

An Asian rap artist’s career was over the moment a netizen questioned his credentials, including his having attended educational institutions in the US. Other netizens joined the bandwagon and continued to attack his credibility even after the artist had already proven that he indeed attended the schools he said he did.

It’s so easy for someone to call-out another person online, celebrity or not. It’s so easy for us to bash a brand, institution or store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

Yes, certain individuals or groups have to be called-out. It is necessary. The Internet is a good venue to call-out wrongs committed against marginalized groups and people, but I really hope we don’t cross the line and call for the mob to attack the target’s family, friends and associates.

For instance, is it really necessary to point out to a celebrity that she or he has gained weight or looks old in a photograph? I have seen strangers do this on Instagram and like any curious person, I look at their profiles and it always happens that they have Bible verses in their bios. Their profile pictures show them with their children and/or loved ones.

But I’d like to think that almost every netizen is a work in progress and that in a decade or less (hopefully), every person would be more responsible and mindful on the Internet.

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Dinna's dream is for every child in the Philippines to be well-fed, well-shod and be in school on the way to getting a college education. If she didn't have to work for a living, she'd probably be taking care of 10 dogs, all of them long-haired chihuahuas.