The beauty of the video above is that it starts out with the tone and content of an average “mean tweets” segment, where the online abuse is a little surprising, but more amusing than truly hurtful. The men who have been chosen to read the tweets can’t help but smile at the harsh words, and the two women sportswriters at whom they are directed—Sarah Spain (ESPNW) and Julie DiCaro (The Cauldron and 670 the Score in Chicago)—can only shake their heads.
And that’s when the whole thing takes a sharp turn toward the uncomfortable. The tweets the men read start to get very personal, and very ugly. The c-word is thrown around freely, and soon it escalates to the online harassers wishing violence and death on Spain and DiCaro. The most disgusting of the bunch comes when a troll tells DiCaro—who has written bravely about the time she was raped in college—that he hopes she get raped again.
It’s long been known and accepted that people will say things when protected by the Internet’s anonymity that they won’t say in real life, but I’ve never seen a better illustration of the phenomenon than this video, which was produced by DiCaro and Spain in conjunction with the podcast Not Just Sports. Watch the discomfort and even pain on the faces the men who read the tweets underscores how intense and personal and awful the words sound coming from the mouth of a human being.
DiCaro spoke with Jezebel about the video, saying that the goal was to get Twitter to take the abuse more seriously:
I get told all the time that “Twitter isn’t real life.” But it IS real life. It’s MY life, specifically. And when people fire this shit off without thinking about it for more than a second, they affect MY LIFE. I’ve legit got a joke with my friends that I need one of those ‘X days since I’ve received an online rape threat” calendars.
While the guys who send this stuff are probably beyond help, maybe the video will make a difference to those who are constantly telling women online to get a thicker skin, ignore the trolls, blah blah blah. Because this stuff does affect our lives. You can only ignore so much of it for so long. It’s not just mean, it’s harassment. If it happened in real life people would be in jail for harassment and stalking.
Hopefully, the video will prompt Twitter to do more.
DiCaro and Spain are currently discussing the video on Twitter.