There’s a saying often quoted to young children who speak their mind - “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Maybe this good advice should be written into a sign-up pledge for users of social media services.
There’s a reason why facebook doesn’t have the much demanded ‘dislike’ button.
Social media should absolutely be used for freedom of speech and expression of opinions, this is one of the great benefits of such technology. Too often however, expression of opinion deteriorates into baseless insults and at worst into expression of hatred; hatred stemming from nothing more than a personal disinclination towards the public face of an individual or their work.
Newspaper reports say that trolls have been proven to have sadistic personality traits. I think many trolls, just like real world bullies, just don’t realise the harm that words can cause. Only a minority of social media users post abusive comments, but sadly I think we’re all guilty of having posted negative and critical comments at some time or other, often when the result of someone else’s hard work and dedication to their art or profession has failed to live up to our own self-centred expectations.
You don’t like the outcome of the latest episode of a TV show. A band you were, like, literally, dying to see live suddenly cancel their tour. Your footy team don’t perform up to par. It’s all too easy to just take to our keyboards and express our dissatisfaction, often in unkind, heat-of-the-moment words. Judging and critiquing via social media is even encouraged as part of reality TV audience interaction, blurring our perception of socially acceptable online behaviour.
Negativity on social media spirals quickly, with everyone jumping on the bandwagon for a laugh. I’m not going to discuss the death of Charlotte Dawson, I didn’t know her and I’m not even familiar with her work, but reading about the abuse she received on social media and its serious contribution to her mental health problems did get me thinking. It should probably get us all thinking next time we’re tempted to let social media bring out the worst in us.
Image credit: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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