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Listen: Ryan Jespersen, Lynda Steele, J’Lyn Nye are joined by writer Ilan Cooley: The Untold Toll of Online Trolls

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9 minute read

Here is a link to the Ryan Jespersen show where he, along with J’Lyn Nye, Lynda Steele and Todayville contributor Ilan Cooley discuss this topic, the impact it has on them, but more importantly, the impact it has on society as a whole.

Click here to listen to their discussion.

 

photo of Ilan Cooley

Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.

The Untold Toll of Online Trolls

By Ilan Cooley

(Warning- language)

The concept of mean tweets has become a late-night talk show punchline that comes with a built-in laugh track, but for some Canadian media celebrities, being on the receiving end of social media bullying is no laughing matter.

J’lyn Nye

“It is always a shock to be called a cunt and a big pig,” says award-winning broadcaster J’lyn Nye. As the co-host of a talk show on Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio, her career spans two decades. “I believe whole heartedly that we, as a society, have devolved. We don’t know how to have a respectful debate.”

Lynda in studio with headphones

Lynda Steele

Like Nye, Lynda Steele is a veteran broadcaster. She works as a talk show host at CKNW radio in Vancouver. Both women previously worked in television, and both say they have endured vicious criticism throughout their careers. They believe gender impacts the kinds of attacks they receive from the public. Comments range from criticism about hairstyle, makeup, or clothing choices, to remarks about weight.

“The hateful comments were never directed at the male on air staff, only the women,” says Steele. “We all got our share of the nastiness. The attacks were almost exclusively from other women. I can only assume they have low self-esteem and feel the need to tear other women down to feel better about themselves. Or maybe they’re mentally ill.

In talk radio, it’s the opposite. The haters are older men. I suspect they are misogynists who are incensed that a woman has a platform to offer her opinion for four hours straight every day. It makes them crazy. You try to develop a thick skin about it,” she says. “But sometimes it’s exhausting, frankly.”

Dr. Tami Bereska, a sociology professor at MacEwan University, says celebrities are often in a difficult position because they need to immerse themselves in the social media environment in order to remain popular and maintain a fan base.

“They are especially at risk,” she says. “The anonymity enabled on some social media platforms gives people the courage to say things to others that they would never say in a face-to-face interaction.”

“The worst go right to the lowest hanging fruit,” says Nye. “The cunt comments. I have male co-workers who are called “asshole,” but they don’t get the viscous vitriol the women I know get. I believe they simply can’t handle a strong, successful, opinionated woman.”

Black and white close up of Ryan Jespersen

Ryan Jespersen

630 CHED host Ryan Jespersen says he is often verbally attacked by listeners, mostly online. Like Nye and Steele, it is Jespersen’s job to voice his opinion live on the air, and to discuss current affairs, and news headlines. He says he is more susceptible to negative comments working in radio than when he worked in television. He believes the catalyst is the explosion of social media. “There’s also the anonymity factor.”

Bereska says anonymity can cause people lose sight of their fundamental beliefs and values, and instead act in the same ways they see others acting in that environment. “As more people begin commenting on the same story, post, or tweet, group polarization occurs, wherein comments become more and more extreme; hateful comments become even more hateful, and critics of those comments become even more critical.”

On Twitter, user @JohnnyJesus took aim at Jespersen, saying, “You’re a no name AM radio shit for brains standing up for the most disgusting anti-Alberta government one could ever imagine. Fuck off.”

“I see moronic stuff thrown at me every single day,” says Jespersen. Without accountability for their comments, some people have turned social media platforms into the new bathroom stall smear campaigns.”

Unfortunately, some people go further than name calling. “We called the police and they took it from there,” says Jespersen. “It’s happened on two occasions. You’ve got to take that stuff seriously.”

Nye believes the people who feel the need to attack others on social media are in effect poisoning the well of society. “It’s become a cesspool for trolls and anonymous keyboard jockeys.” She says since being in radio it is the worst she’s ever seen it. “I used to get upset and react, now I realize the person sending the comment has an issue.”

Facebook user Shawn Lipon does not shy away from expressing his opinions on social media, and does not conceal his identity there. He is vocal about his disdain for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and hurls insults at anyone he perceives to be liberal. Lipon says his motives range from a desire to bring about change, to seeking attention, or just being bored. He finds entertainment in triggering people into a debate that “keeps them up all night.”

Lipon says he wants to put his voice into the discussion with the hopes it will bring other people around to his way of thinking. “I want to have my opinion heard publicly,” he says. “To expose incompetence in hopes of changing opinion to that of my own. I think posting is great to voice opinion and have a say. Sometimes there is nowhere else to express opinions.”

Bereska likens the social media landscape to a battlefield, and says since deviance and normality are socially constructed, what we perceive as being acceptable or unacceptable evolves and changes over time, and is affected by larger sociocultural forces.

Nye feels we need to change the way we communicate with each other, but fears we are too far gone. She believes her bosses and managers need to stand up for employees more and adhere to the “no abuse” policy that already exists where she works. She also thinks social media outlets need to take a stronger stance enforcing their codes of conduct. “They aren’t doing a good job right now.”

Steele says the solution starts with parents. “Teach your children to be nice and respectful. Teach them about consequences.”

Jespersen encourages people to speak out. “Hold people accountable.”

Bereska suggests a solution may be possible with the efforts of both individuals and institutions. “The question is whether individuals, groups, and agents of power, such as social media companies themselves, will take a stand against trolling behaviours. Not just in words, but in actions.”

Read more on Todayville Edmonton.

photo of Ilan Cooley

Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community. 

Todayville is an independently-owned digital media company. We specialize in helping community groups, local businesses and organizations tell their story. Our team has years of media and video production experience. Talk to us about advertising, brand journalism stories, opinion pieces, event promotion, or other ideas you have to make our product better. We also own and operate Todayville Red Deer and Todayville Calgary.

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