yFy has a new TV series called The Internet Ruined My Life, featuring in-depth stories about survivors of online harassment. The first episode is about Suey Park, known for her online activism campaigns like #NotYourAsianSidekick and #CancelColbert. As a content warning, this 10-minute sneak peek contains multiple staged recreations of some of the stalking and in-person harassment that Park experienced, as well as screenshots of many of the graphic threats that Park has received.
It’s a difficult video to watch — and it’s all the more difficult to imagine what it must have been like for Park to have experienced this. I think Park’s story is valuable and deeply important to share and learn about. Although I have heard a lot about Park’s activism, I didn’t actually know about what she experienced as a result of it, and I’m very grateful to be aware of it, having seen this video and heard her story told in her words.
It’s good to see awareness growing about online harassment — but I have to admit, I was hoping for a little bit more out of this video than just awareness. Admittedly, this is just a “sneak peek” of the full episode — but based on this 10-minute segment, I’m unsure how I feel about the direction SyFy chose in terms of editing, tone, atmosphere, and so on.
As one example, there is one line from Park during her story about how the police did not help her. I don’t know whether Park is currently seeking legal action against any of the threats she has received, so it’s possible that she wasn’t able to comment more specifically about the legal recourse she may have sought. That said, I personally know many other people who haveattempted to seek legal help with cyber-crime. Their experiences have gone very poorly. I feel that SyFy had a big opportunity here to highlight the lack of recourse available for people who deal with cyber crime and stalking. SyFy could have included more examples in this video about specifically why the police weren’t helpful for Park — or, at least, why they haven’t been helpful to others in her position.
As it is now, the video contains no information about why Park did not receive help from the police, and if a viewer didn’t already know why that might be, they could leave this video thinking that Park’s story doesn’t add up. Again, this is just a sneak peek, but this is a very poor omission to make, even in just a preview, due to the extent of misinformation about this topic. Many people do not know that police departments do not necessarily take internet threats seriously, and that taking a Twitter death threat to a police station could likely get you laughed out of the room; many departments aren’t even equipped to handle cyber crime, and it’s very difficult to get a conviction for it in the US. A more naive viewer might not even understand why Park’s situation got so bad — the lack of help from the police is a huge reason why.
Rather than delve into those sorts of informational specifics, the video focuses primarily on staging out the traumas that Park endured — with professional actors, almost like a Law & Order episode. As a result of the editing and staging, I’m uncertain about what SyFy wanted me to think. I don’t know that “voyeuristic” is quite the right way to describe this clip, but “shocking” does seem to be part of the intent here. What does SyFy want to “shock” me into doing, though? Am I meant to be watching these survivors’ stories as a form of entertainment? Or is this an investigative journalism effort, in order to put a spotlight on the lack of support for people who go through experiences like this?
I would prefer if the show ended up being the latter — but this clip doesn’t necessarily look like it’s headed in that direction. The SyFy show isn’t out yet, but this is a ten-minute segment, so it does seem long enough that I think I have a pretty good idea of where this is going in terms of tone. I really hope I’m wrong and that SyFy will use this opportunity to explain cyber crime to people who don’t understand it. Without that information, I think this show will just end up shining another beacon on harassment survivors — but not necessarily helping them. Only pointing at them and inviting everyone else to look. That wouldn’t bother me so much if I felt like SyFy was on their side, but I’m not entirely sure whether or not they are, or if they just think that these stories would make for a gripping television show.