Let’s re­verse the trend for so­cial me­dia nega­tiv­ity

Western Daily Press - - WDP2 -

JUST be­fore Christ­mas I was tagged in a Face­book com­ment by some­one call­ing me “the most hated man in Corn­wall”.

If that wasn’t enough, the same per­son added that if I wanted to con­tinue liv­ing in Corn­wall he ad­vised that I stopped be­ing a re­porter. That sounded like a threat to me.

I can see the so­cial me­dia posts now... laugh it off, peo­ple will say. “You’re a jour­nal­ist, it’s part of your job to ac­cept crit­i­cism.” Though it prob­a­bly won’t be spelled cor­rectly and there’ll be a few ripe words thrown in for good mea­sure.

Those com­ments aren’t the first ag­gres­sive, bul­ly­ing and neg­a­tive re­ac­tions I’ve re­ceived on­line and they won’t be the last.

Even at the dawn of the in­ter­net I was be­ing called a c-word for writ­ing crit­i­cal re­views of nu-metal bands. You should have seen what emo fans called me....

Things have got far worse in re­cent times. Even some “feel­good” sto­ries

Why has so­cial me­dia turned so many of us into haters, won­ders Lee Trewhela

are now greeted with in­stant nega­tiv­ity by key­board war­riors who will look to bad­mouth the sub­ject of a story’s life, ac­tions or choices.

There’s crit­i­cism and there’s pure nas­ti­ness. Corn­wall Live posted a story on Face­book this week about a midwife from the county un­der­go­ing bru­tal chal­lenges on an episode of TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins. A lot of the com­ments that fol­lowed can only be de­scribed as sex­ist and spite­ful. Why the need?

I sus­pect a lot of peo­ple think they’re be­ing funny but, you know, just take a minute to think be­fore you post. That com­ment could be hurt­ful and in­sult­ing at best, bul­ly­ing and li­bel­lous at worst.

It has a di­rect ef­fect on some­one’s men­tal health. Never for­get that.

Only this week I tweeted a fea­ture I’d writ­ten about some­one’s good for­tune. Did you ask them about a cer­tain in­ci­dent in their past, came a re­ply. Why? If true, it had noth­ing to do with this cur­rent story. Why look for nega­tiv­ity all the time?

Our Face­book page has be­come in­fa­mous for it. While it’s full of peo­ple be­ing pos­i­tive and shar­ing our sto­ries, it’s also often awash with such ve­he­mence you have to ques­tion what has hap­pened to the hu­man race.

I wel­come con­struc­tive crit­i­cism – be­lieve me, I’m even crit­i­cal of our site myself some­times – but some of the com­ments are so full of in­vec­tive I’ve cho­sen not to read them any­more. It’s cer­tainly helped me sleep at night.

I’m far from the only one af­fected by ris­ing bile on­line. I’m sure we’ve all got a story. When even the Pres­i­dent of the United States is tweet­ing scat­ter­gun – and, many would ar­gue, highly dan­ger­ous – mus­ings, you know we’re in a strange place.

Free­dom of speech ap­pears to have be­come the free­dom to ha­rangue. Look at Black Mirror ac­tor Will Poul­ter, who de­cided to leave Twit­ter last week for his san­ity fol­low­ing com­ments over his looks. What drives some­one to make pub­lic com­ments about an­other per­son’s face?

And how about the moun­tain of anti-semitic com­ments thrown at co­me­dian David Bad­diel? To be fair, he tack­les each and ev­ery one head on – I’m not sure I’d have the pa­tience or skin thick enough to do that. Voted to leave Europe in the ref­er­en­dum? Don’t an­nounce it on so­cial me­dia or you’ll be dubbed a right-wing, im­mi­grant-hat­ing racist. Or thick.

When the team at Corn­wall Live deem a com­ment has gone too far we are able to hide it, but are the so­cial me­dia gi­ants as quick when it comes to dam­ag­ing posts? It often ap­pears not.

The Greek cho­rus of so­cial me­dia trolls has be­come deaf­en­ing and you could ar­gue it’s now spilling over onto our streets.

Has shar­ing anger at a press of a but­ton made it eas­ier for peo­ple to show ag­gres­sion in “real life”?

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice have been re­quested to act over in­creas­ing abuse of MPs out­side Par­lia­ment after pro­test­ers chanted at Tory MP Anna Soubry that she was a “Nazi” and other re­volt­ing abuse.

The rise of such hate-rid­den be­hav­iour in re­cent years ap­pears to mirror the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of so­cial me­dia. A co­in­ci­dence?

So­cial me­dia is in­trin­sic to my job. If it wasn’t, I would have started 2019 iPhone-free. That’s a sad in­dict­ment of where Face­book, Twit­ter et al find them­selves now.

Twee I know, but shouldn’t we all be a bit kinder to each other?

Just take a minute to think be­fore you post,says Lee Trewhela

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