So the old saying goes: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
All very well to preach, but we’re all too aware of the accidental outbursts, mutterings and slurs that can occur as the result of a sharp tongue, and a lack of consideration.
With advancements in technology, we see changes in the way we interact with one another on a daily basis, and the rise of social media has meant that what was perhaps once merely mumbled under our breath, is now typed and published on the internet without a second thought.
Note that I used the word published there. The misapprehension that the internet is some sort of personal diary is entirely incorrect. Words written there are permanent and the effects of them can be too.
Twitter and Facebook are a cocktail of ‘I just sneezed seven times’, ‘My mums the best’ and ‘I don’t know you very well but happy birthday’, shaken up with holiday pictures, blended with the odd joke and consumed by anyone with an internet connection. This is harmless, and a prominent aspect of life for us internet users.
Recent laws however mean that individuals can be prosecuted for online comments and posts of an offensive nature.
In some ways, this is bizarre. If I shout “Brian is a fat idiot” in my back garden, nobody arrests me. If I then type this online, I could have the police at my door ready to charge. Obviously this is exaggerated, and the statements that do get people in trouble with authorities are a great deal more hurtful. I also don’t know anyone called Brian, so hope I have not offended anyone with my example.
It’s all becoming a bit 1984, with Big Brother scrolling and reading everything we type, click and share. Where is the line drawn to differentiate between what is harmless and what is intended as abuse? How is a nasty comment on twitter so terrible, but a Frankie Boyle joke performed on stage in no way grounds for arrest?
The reality is that writing about someone and publishing this online, is the equivalent of pulling them up on stage and screaming it in their face in front of a few hundred of their friends, neighbours and random passers by. This is a very real development in the online world, that must be treated with caution.
The term ‘troll’ no longer refers to an ugly mythical creature that dwells under a bridge, it describes a different kind of creature that hides behind a keyboard.
The internet isn’t always a soapbox, or a personal newsletter and the world doesn’t need to know every emotion, thought and unkind word that you feel the inexplicable urge to shout from the nearest hilltop. It’s certainly an outlet, but one that we need to understand fully before we run use it as a tannoy.
Often, the old school advice is the best to live by, and if that’s just not enough; get a journal mate.