It all started with a single tweet. Schilling's daughter had just been accepted to college to play softball, and as any technology savvy father would do, he posted a congratulatory message on Twitter. It read, "Congrats to Gabby Schilling who will pitch for the Salve Regina Seahawks next year!!" An entirely appropriate post by a proud father that unfortunately brought out the trolls.
Schilling says he's been using computers since 1981 and is "absolutely aware of social media and how it works." He knew there would be responses to his tweet, some congratulating his daughter and inevitably some from "smart ass" college kids. And sure enough, the posts came rolling in, including ones promising to "take care of her" and those expressing a desire to party with his daughter.
It comes with the territory of social media and falsely assumed anonymity. In response, Schilling playfully posted another tweet saying, "I have many friends that are in or former special forces..." It was in good fun from a father wanting to protect his daughter, but what wasn't in good fun were some of the over-the-top responses to Schilling and messages directed at his daughter.
They're so inappropriate and sexually violent that we won't repost them here, but if you really want to see what was said, they're on Schilling's blog.
"Now let me emphasize again. I was a jock my whole life. I played sports my whole life. Baseball since I was 5 until I retired at 41. I know clubhouses. I lived in a dorm. I get it. Guys will be guys. Guys will say dumb crap, often. But I can’t ever remember, drunk, in a clubhouse, with best friends, with anyone, ever speaking like this to someone," Schilling said.
Here's the thing -- Twitter users aren't anonymous. With enough research, nobody on the Internet is truly anonymous, but it's especially true of trolls who would target an incoming college freshman girl with tweets that would make you cringe. It's a lesson that some had to learn the hard way, and Schilling was sufficiently motivated to teach it.
Congrats to Gabby Schilling who will pitch for the Salve Regina Seahawks next year!!— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) February 25, 2015
Within a matter of hours, Schilling had tracked down the trolls that were harassing him and his daughter.
"This is a generation of kids who have grown up behind the monitor and keyboard. The real world has consequences when you do and say things about others. We’re at a point now where you better be sure who you’re going after," Schilling said.
"If I was a deranged protective dad I could have been face to face with any of these people in less than 4 hours," he continued. "I know every one of their names, their parents, where they go to school, what they do, what team they are on, their positions, stats, all of it. I had to do almost nothing to get ANY of that information because it is all public."
Lucky for them, he didn't pay the culprits a visit and beat them with a baseball bat. Instead, he contacted the organizations they were associated with to let them know who's representing them. One of the trolls, Sean MacDonald, is a New Jersey man who worked as a part-time ticket seller for the Yankees. He was fired. The second individual Schilling decided to teach a lesson, Adam Nagel, is a student at Brookdale Community College. He was suspended.
“The Twitter comments posted by this student are unacceptable and clearly violate the standards of conduct that are expected of all Brookdale students," Brookdale Community College said in a statement. "The student has been summarily suspended and will be scheduled for a conduct hearing where further disciplinary action will be taken. The Brookdale Police are actively investigating this matter. Brookdale takes this behavior very seriously and does not tolerate any form of harassment."
There are some that would say the punishment is too severe and that Schilling should lighten up. To those who agree, Schilling linked to several articles on separate incidents of teens committing suicide as the result of cyberbullying.
The problem here isn't Schilling. Twitter has a history of cyberbullying and harassment, and even the CEO earlier this month confessed that he and the rest of the Twitter team "suck at dealing with abuse and trolls." In fact, he's "ashamed" at how bad it's become. He vowed to be more aggressive in dealing with abusers and to "start kicking these people off right and left," but in the meantime, it's nice to see people like Schilling taking a stand in a meaningful way.
"What these kids are failing to realize, what this generation fails to realize is this; Everything they’ve just said and done? That is out there now, forever. It can, and in some cases will, follow them for the rest of their lives," Schilling said.