Are we sur­prised that Ed Sheeran has quit Twit­ter?

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - CHAR­LOTTE GILL

HIS Gal­way Girl may leave me as cold as the Ir­ish coast, but I still like Ed Sheeran. He seems like a lovely chap, who’s worked his way up, and gen­uinely cares about mu­sic. And so it is a shame that he has been bul­lied so badly on so­cial me­dia. It makes my heart break – al­most as if it were the string on a bud­get gui­tar.

Head­lines were made yes­ter­day as Sheeran con­fessed that he had “come off Twit­ter com­pletely”, as on­line abuse had be­come too much for him. In spite of his 19 mil­lion fol­low­ers, the star was hurt by the end­less cru­elty that has be­come all too com­mon­place on the site. It’s a de­press­ing state of af­fairs when any­one who dares to put them­selves in the spot­light – even with the best of in­ten­tions and the least of mal­ice – may find them­selves pelted with ver­bal stones.

Some might say that Sheeran is weak to re­move him­self from the site, but I can un­der­stand why. It can be jolly dif­fi­cult to stay in such a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment.

This is some­thing jour­nal­ists are par­tic­u­larly aware of – al­beit on a lesser scale – as we get at­tacked time and time again for open­ing our mouths. The Twit­ter­sphere fu­els a level of moral ou­trage that can feel over­whelm­ing to those at the cen­tre of it.

In­deed, when I first started writ­ing, I re­mem­ber think­ing ev­ery­one would find my opin­ions bril­liant (which they are, of course). That’s un­til I got called “wet wipe” and “Hitler” af­ter one of my pieces (which did not, for the sake of clar­i­fi­ca­tion, in­volve any neo-Nazi sen­ti­ments). At night I looked into the mir­ror, won­der­ing: “Am I re­ally Hitler?” and: “Is wet wipe a le­git­i­mate in­sult?” I’m still none the wiser.

The strange thing about be­ing trolled is it’s like hav­ing a beer. Af­ter a while you get used to the taste, and you can even take more of it (al­though it’s al­ways a bit bit­ter). Not least be­cause on­line trolls are bloody strange peo­ple – science has proven it. A study out this week even sug­gests that they’re mostly psy­chopaths and sadists, with lower lev­els of em­pa­thy than your av­er­age hu­man be­ing. Who knew!

Trolls also seem in­cred­i­bly needy, and tend to pipe down when metaphor­i­cally stroked by a Twit­ter like or a re­ply. Of­ten in­sult­ing peo­ple is sim­ply a way of say­ing: “No­tice me!”

Still, the level of abuse Sheeran has faced is un­fath­omable com­pared to most peo­ple, and be­yond what any rea­son­able per­son could be ex­pected to take. This is why so many A-lis­ters have ducked out of Twit­ter, in­clud­ing Mi­ley Cyrus, Sue Perkins, Stephen Fry, Halsey and Joss Whe­don. Most of whom ac­tu­ally have in­cred­i­bly tough skin. This seems a great shame, not least be­cause – in Sheeran’s case – the pos­i­tive tweets directed to­wards him do ac­tu­ally out­weigh the cruel ones. The prob­lem is that it’s al­ways eas­ier to pay at­ten­tion to the lat­ter group.

In the fu­ture I ex­pect Twit­ter will be­come much more reg­u­lated. It is al­ready be­ing ti­died up through var­i­ous but­tons de­signed to in­hibit trolls, namely the “Block” and “Mute” func­tions. And per­haps this is not such a bad thing. What we have learnt as tech­nol­ogy evolves is that hu­mans aren’t so quick to do the same. In fact, the in­ter­net has only fu­elled a huge re­gres­sion in the way in which peo­ple treat oth­ers.

One can only hope that Sheeran’s Twit­ter hia­tus does not last for ever; whether he re­alises it or not, the trolls care far more about his mu­sic than they’d ever like to ad­mit. – The In­de­pen­dent

It’s dif­fi­cult to stay in such a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment

PIC­TURE: JOEL RYAN/INVISION/AP

Singer Ed Sheeran has quit us­ing the so­cial me­dia plat­form as on­line abuse has be­come too much for him.

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