Online trolls are brave enough to dish it out while hiding behind a screen, but get them face to face, and it’s a different story. Or in other words, they’re not brave at all.
Saying your piece face to face means facing the consequences like a man: owning up to the emotional pain that your words might have caused someone; or possibly crossing the wrong person who isn’t afraid to hit back. It’s a reckoning for your words and deeds that proves what you’re really made of.
The blind internet, where there is no owning up, sometimes brings out the worst in people.
This is Ella. Im not asking you to say how beautiful she is or for you to like the post. All I really want after tonight is to treat her as a normal person who would smile at you and doesn’t deserve to have have fun poked at her pic.twitter.com/fnGq9V5elH
— Neil Markham (@NeilMarkham1) April 27, 2019
A father in London, Neil Markham, knows this all too well, and he had to find a way to deal with it. The dad, whose 16-year-old daughter Ella has a disorder called Down syndrome, did not expect so many cruel commenters when he posted an innocent video online. Not to mention that they were targeting his own extremely vulnerable child.
Ella, who is a very happy child in spite of her disorder, is particularly fond of football (which North Americans call soccer). Her favorite team is the Tottenham Hotspur, and she was lucky enough to attend a game with her dad one day. It was after the game when they had some time to kill, and Ella wanted to partake in some of the lively musical festivities at the stadium, music being another one of her passions. Dad filmed while Ella went to town dancing to the live music. She was happy, and that’s all that really matters.
— Neil Markham (@NeilMarkham1) April 27, 2019
Not everyone saw it that way, though. Markham hoped to share the lovely time that they had had with the online community and found out just how judgmental some people can be—when they don’t have to account for the words that they say, that is.
He had expected a lot more positive comments, and was surprised at just how much negativity was pouring in, filled with cruel anger, misunderstanding, and making fun. He found it hard to understand and felt upset.
After Markham showed his wife some of the comments, he decided that he had to do something. His instincts told him that he needed to protect Ella. After all, if he, her dad, wasn’t there to support her, then who would be? And so Markham did what any parent ought to do for their child when there are predators, what Ella could not do; he had to be strong and take a stand. So, he decided to confront the online trolls who were posting all the horrible and hateful things out of ignorance. He posted his phone number and invited them to call, and speak to him directly, man-to-man.
Here’s an example pic.twitter.com/1fQAe5CgDc
— Neil Markham (@NeilMarkham1) April 29, 2019
It was not his intention to get angry or aggressive, but to clear up some of the ignorance and misunderstanding. And it revealed just how “man” they really were. Of all the “courageous” commenters, just one dared to call and say his piece. Meanwhile, Markham’s action garnered an unexpected, supportive, and “miraculous” response from sympathetic netizens who called or left messages telling him that not everyone feels like those trolls do.
Later, Markham and Ella went on a TV program called “This Morning” where he shared his experience of being a father of a teen with Down syndrome. The hosts were sympathetic; one of them called the trolls “cowards,” but what Markham really wished to say was that people should be kinder and less ignorant.
A huge thanks to every single person that works on @thismorning for everything you did for us. Wonderful caring people. @hollywills & @Schofe too you made Ella feel very special. She’s had a great day and will never forget it pic.twitter.com/5QyZhb2Uc7
— Neil Markham (@NeilMarkham1) May 1, 2019
He told the hosts exactly what his intentions were when confronting the trolls, “Let’s talk about it, I’m going to tell you have you made me feel, and if you don’t do that again, then perhaps we’ve changed something.”
Meanwhile, Markham said that some 20,000 people have shown support, and that’s a decent outcome for a father hoping to rally some positivity for his adoring daughter.
This is me and my daughter Ella. I’ve read certain words on Twitter recently. Please be very careful on here when you use words like ‘retard’ and ‘mong’. Ella’s my daughter and my inspiration. If there were more people like Ella in the world it would be a far better place pic.twitter.com/XI43QYKAYr
— Neil Markham (@NeilMarkham1) December 9, 2018