Hostile Words

“Wounds caused by words don’t heal”

Regardless of whether you use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or maybe all three: I’m sure that all of us have read a public comment, a post or a tweet with mean and hurtful content. And probably not only once, but many, many times. Hateful and hurtful words are becoming increasingly normal on social media and online communities, simultaneously legitimised by and legitimating the hateful political speeches we have seen in almost all of the most recent election campaigns.

Blaming that intangible and yet omnipresent entity called the Social Network for not doing enough is just an easy and dangerous shortcut because, as linguists know, a word is not good or bad on its own: its context is the key to understanding its deeper and real meaning, as well as its speaker’s real intention.

When it comes to attitudes on social networks, the only solution seems to be educating people on how to express an opinion without aggression or insulting others and how to avoid being dragged into the spiral of written violence and anger that some posts seem to create.

This was the aim of the workshop Parole_Ostili (Hostile_Words) that took place in Trieste on the 17th and 18th of February, 2017. The most important outcome of the event was the Manifesto for non-hostile communication: a very interesting document written by an online community proposing 10 principles (The Ten Commandments 2.0) that every internet user should keep in mind to foster respectful and peaceful relations on social networks.

  1. Virtual is real.

I say or write only things that I would say in person.

  1. What we say is what we are.

The words I choose reveal the person I am: they represent me.

  1. Words express thoughts.

I take as much time as I need to find the best way to express what I think.

  1. We need to listen before speaking.

Nobody is always right, and I am no exception. I listen honestly and with an open mind.

  1. Words are bridges.

I choose my words to understand, to be understood, to become closer to others.

  1. Words have consequences.

I know that every word I use can have big or small consequences.

  1. Sharing is not an innocent action.

I only share texts and images that I read, evaluate and understand.

  1. Ideas can be discussed.

People must be respected. I don’t turn people with different opinions into enemies to destroy.

  1. Insults are not arguments.

I don’t accept insults, not even those supporting my opinion.

  1. Silence speaks.

When silence is the best answer, I don’t say or write anything.

– Stefania Tringali


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