(CNN)When do "mean tweets" cross the line from harmless to flat-out harassment? Here's a good rule of thumb: If you can't look the recipient in the eye while reading your clever insults, it's probably not OK.
Brutal video brings online harassment to life
A group of well-meaning men got a firsthand look at the bizarre torrents of online abuse faced by female sports journalists when they were asked to read real tweets the women had received.
The video, titled #MoreThanMean and released Tuesday, was created by Just Not Sports, a podcast and website that focuses on sports personalities and peripheral stories in the sports world.
#MoreThanMean features Chicago-based sports journalists Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro. DiCaro is an anchor for Chicago's 670 The Score and writes for various sports sites. Spain is an espnW writer, radio host and SportsCenter reporter.
In the video, the women prepare themselves to be owned by some classic mean tweet reading. A troupe of men perch on seats in front of them, expecting to share the same witty, tepid insults we've come to expect from late-night TV schticks. (The men did not write any of the tweets).
The video rapidly spirals from goofy to awkward to painful as the men realize the tweets they are reading aren't Jimmy Kimmel-level comedy. They're real responses the two women had chosen at random from their Twitter mentions.
As one of the men notes, there are a LOT of "c" words. And rape jokes. And other stuff that's difficult to hear.
Good luck trying to get through the whole thing in one sitting, because it's brutal from every angle (mercifully, DiCaro and Spain were prepared ahead of time for the onslaught).
The video has sparked an intense Twitter conversation, with other female journalists weighing in on their own harassment -- because although sports journalism is a fertile place for this type of abuse, it is certainly not a singular case.
"THIS is the garbage I, along with everyone of my female counterparts, deals with constantly," SportsNet LA's Alanna Rizzo tweeted.
DiCaro and Spain fielded angry claims on social media that the tweets in the video were "just jokes" and that, somehow, extreme harassment is an accepted -- and thereby acceptable -- part of a journalist's job. Ironically, the twitter mentions contained the same type of vitriol and aggression their video highlighted in the first place.
For male sports fans, the video was a stark reminder that, while they personally may never dream of spouting such bile, those that do still exist.
In an interesting bit of convergence, Twitter recently announced an improved way to report abuse on the platform. With the new tool, individuals can attach several Tweets at once to a report, which Twitter says will provide "added context" and will reduce the time needed to process reports.
The supposed panacea of the report and block buttons was a favorite topic of DiCaro and Spain's online detractors.
"Why don't you just block or report?" the chorus sang. The women were quick to remind the hoard that blocking won't deter a determined troll, and maybe, just maybe, the message should lie in preventing abusive messages, rather than having to shield oneself from its effects.
When DiCaro described a longtime troll, critics asked her why she hadn't simply blocked him.
"HE IS BLOCKED. BLOCKING DOESN'T WORK," she responded
DiCaro and Spain are scheduled to talk Wednesday about online harassment and the treatment of women in sports media at BWB7, a sports media convention being held in Chicago.