Things To Do When The Internet Makes You Enraged

I’ve been struggling recently, trying to find the best way to handle the ongoing barrage of anger and hate that has been directed at various people in the community. Although I haven’t been anywhere near the thick of things, it gets exhausting just watching my close friends and people I respect and admire continue to get attacked for saying things that don’t appear to be particularly controversial.  From the response we’ve been getting, I’m not alone. We’ve seen a huge outpouring of support in the commenters, people sending messages via the contact form, Twitter and Facebook. I know that many of you out there are feeling just as angry and helpless as I do when I see friends being attacked and a community I love start to fracture at the edges.

I’ve always been a big believer in taking action to make a difference but I’m not able to put myself on the front lines of the battle. And I think others feel the same. But, I want to do *something*. So I thought I’d put together some things that you and others can do to make a difference in this community to build it up and strengthen the foundations, while Rebecca, Amy and others are fighting to make the community a fun, welcoming and diverse space for everyone.


1. Support organizations that specifically want to make their events safe and comfortable for women

There’s been lots of talk about conferences and making skeptical and atheist conferences a comfortable space for a diverse group of people. If you agree that this is a good goal, support and attend the conferences that do as well.  CSICon and Skepticon are two that are coming up. Women in Secularism is early next year. And there are plenty of others. The More than Men site has a great listing of cons that have identified harassment policies. And, if you decide not to go to a conference because of a lack of harassment policies or diversity in speakers, let the organizers know. It will make a difference.

2. Support Charitable Organizations in the name of Atheism and Skepticism

Debbie wrote a compelling and beautiful piece on why this is so important earlier this week and I can’t top it. There are plenty of great causes out there. Foundation Beyond Belief is a charitable foundation created to focus, encourage and demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion. They select and feature various charitable organizations and help you decide what charities to support.

They are also currently a national sponsor for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk. This happens to be my pet charity and last month, the Atlanta Skeptics raised $1,650 for our Light the Night team from the Star Party. Because we are part of the FBB team, this donation will be matched by the Todd Steifel foundation, which has pledged to match all donations up to $500,000. The goal is to raise a million dollars this year. Help out by donating here!

I can think of few things more important to building this community than education and support for young people. The Secular Student Alliance works to support and provide resources for secular students across the country. Camp Quest is an organization that puts together secular summer camps. You can donate directly to SSA and Camp Quest. Or, if you want a little something for yourself, buy a Surly from this page and Amy will donate a percentage of her profits to one of these fantastic organizations.

Can’t donate directly? Over the next week or so, you can show support by just clicking a button. Foundation Beyond Belief, Camp Quest and the Secular Student Alliance are all up for grants in the Chase Community Giving program. You can vote every day and make sure these great organizations get funding! It’s a little bit of a pain but you can log in with a Facebook account and look for the organization names to vote. You can vote for two organizations per day.

3. Participate in Skepticamp or a local skeptics group

If travel is not an option, consider participating in a local skepticamp. Several local groups have found that skepticamps are a great way to meet people, learn and share your knowledge. The ‘Un-Conference’ nature of Skepticamp means that, by definition, everyone is welcome and can participate.

Similarly, local skeptics groups that have Skeptics in the Pub or Drinking Skeptically are great ways to meet people and expand your experience with skepticism. And, if you don’t have a local group or skepticamp, why not start one?

We’ve been putting together a (usually) bi-weekly vodcast on Google+ to help local groups get some questions answered. It’s called Some Assembly Required and we do it as a live Google+ Hangout so you can come by and ask questions or review our older episodes, which are recorded and saved on our YouTube channel.

4. Participate on the Internet

Activism comes in many forms. If you want, you can participate in skeptical activism from right behind your keyboard! Participate in Web of Trust, Wikipedia, the Skeptics Stack Exchange. There are plenty of things to be done and Tim Farley knows all of them. Check out his presentation from TAM, which contains lots of great ideas and suggestions for how to do effective  activism on the internet.

5. Contribute directly

And, if you’ve done all that and you still want to help, you can always directly support the people who are being targeted. Buy something from Skeptical Robot or Surly-Ramics to support Rebecca and Amy. Donate directly on Jen’s page and let her know she’s missed.

Or, just send a message of support or respond to someone saying negative things. Speak out, if you can. Call out when you see people misbehaving on the internet. Raise the social cost of being a misogynist. Let’s show these people that we won’t let the people we admire and respect be silenced and that we won’t keep silent when we see our friends attacked.

These are just a few ideas of how to turn this tide of negativity into something positive. There are lots of other things to do. Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments!

Featured image and cartoon courtesy the fantastic Jill Powell!


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. I see many atheist and secular groups to support but are we sure they’re anti-misogyny as well?

    I was disappointed that more people didn’t call out Dawkins for his heinous comment and for implying that she blatantly degraded abused women with her video.

    I even saw on an atheist blog the male author say “comment on this Dawkins video (it was about science) – the youtube comments change the subject so don’t do that here but Dawkins is NOT misogynist”

    So the guy blatantly shut down a chance to discuss his misogyny while saying he’s not sexist. What bullshit.

  2. Hey Masala, I love your post its exactly what we need (was feeling quite frustrated until A+ came along).

    I happened to notice that you use the ableist word “crazy” in the title of your post. Could you change this to a word that is not ableist like furious or enraged.

      1. I have to admit that my initial reaction was “Now you can’t say crazy ?? You’ve got to be kidding me..”.
        I did read the article though, and it makes a good point about something I wasn’t even aware of.
        So thank you. :)

        Also, ‘enraged’ is a more precise description anyway.

      2. @Bug, thanks for that link, I am sorely in need of education on this issue.

        There was gold in one comment, urging definition of “gervais” as “‘ignorant, pompous being who suffers delusions of grandeur and an inability to admit any wrong doing, often found wedged up their own digestive tract’.”

        Ah, the fine art of nuking the opposition without fallout on those we would be mortified to offend!

      3. Wow, thank you. I have to say I was not expecting for you to just change it without countering with some argument. And it has nothing to do with you or skepchicks rep (Y’all are amazingly inclusive) rather because I have had to deal with lots of ablesplaining from in response to pointing out ableism in the skeptic/atheist community. So once again thank you thank you thank you!!! *sigh of relief*

        P.S. Thanks for your link. Here is a resource from feminists with disabilities that did a ableist word profile series. You may have already read it but in case you haven’t and are interested here you go
        Ok sorry for the continued derail. Back to the topic of your post

  3. I’ve also posted a couple of entries on my tiny little blog about the most recent flap, and tagged them with every trigger for the haters that I could think of. Perhaps if I can draw off a little of their attention from their main targets, that will be a help. It might be harder for them to overwhelm a few individuals with their hate if there are way too many targets out there.

  4. Good suggestions.

    I would like to also add 1) taking a walk 2) talking to your dog (pet) 3) table flipping. I’ve found all of them can make me feel calm enough to act somewhat rationally and do one of the other suggestions.

  5. Nice post! I suspected arguing with people on comment threads was pretty pointless. It can be fun but Tim makes a good argument against it – maybe I’ll get it out of my system and do something more useful.

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