GuysLikeU contributor Hadley asks why some people become monsters behind a computer keyboard.
I don’t know what it is about social media that turns the everyday person into a catty keyboard warrior. Just recently we saw a few twitter wars break out, forcing two high profile tweeters to log off the app indefinitely. Who am I talking about? Well if you haven’t already worked out, I’m referring to Stephen Fry and Sam Smith. The pair jumped from the twitter-ship only weeks apart from each other; Fry leaving after being trolled for his comment at the BAFTA’s and Smith taking some time out, perhaps to brush up on his LGBT history? Of course, the rest of us are all admiring our PhD thesis on the LGBT Rights Movement as I write this… Maybe not.
Casting aside our knowledge (or lack of) LGBT Oscar winners, why is it that twitter seems to bring out the worst in people? It’s as though the very act of typing a tweet on our keyboards or touchscreens, results in the loss of the filter between our thoughts and our finger tips.
Social media has grown in popularity over the past years and rightly so, in my opinion. These platforms provide people with a way of interacting with their friends, family or even strangers – whether they be sitting next to them or on the other side of the world. Equally, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are our magic keys to unlocking a celebrity’s life. From learning about what they love to do on a Sunday afternoon, to discovering a very interesting frying pan (Tom Daley!), or even having front row seats at an award ceremony. The list is endless. So it’s no wonder that the vast majority of people with a Wi-Fi connection have at least one social media account.
With all this hype, however, something seems to be missing. Rules. I don’t want to sound like a kill-joy, but even in life there are rules. Maybe we’re less aware of them. If not ‘rules’, then perhaps social norms and values, might be slightly more close to where I’m going with this. For example, outside the world of Twitter, you would never go up to somebody on the street and tell them that they were ugly. Well, I wouldn’t anyway. Yet people seem to quite happily criticise somebody’s appearance online and nobody seems to bat an eyelid at that.
By spewing your dislike of somebody over the internet, you’re not only affecting them, you’re also not doing yourself any favours. Whenever I get a new follower, I’ll have a quick scan of their account before I decided to follow them. Interestingly I won’t be very tempted to follow you back if you’re constantly tweeting about your disapproval of every A-list celebrity. You may well be a very nice person in real life (one would hope), but the image you’re portraying of yourself is a very ugly one.
And let’s not forget about the millions of us on Twitter who aren’t basking in the celebrity limelight. What about us? Anyone from young teenagers to your grandmother can be trolled online, yet they don’t seem to grasp the attention of national magazines, who seem quick to report high profile incidents. Unfortunately not everyone is a thick-skinned Tweeter, able to cast aside hurtful comments. There are many people out there who are being bombarded by online messages and they don’t feel able to overcome this almost hidden form of bullying. Some are even driven to taking drastic action, which is simply shocking.
So after all that, are you prepared to throw social media out of the window? I don’t want you to and, more to the point, why should you? Social media is one of the most amazing tools we have at our disposal, inhabiting our daily routine and allowing us to have a voice. So I think it’s a shame that a minority of users feel the need to intimidate and bully others online. Do you ever stop to think about who is on the receiving end of your tweet? It’s a person, not a computer. Perhaps it’s time that some of us got a grip, stopped hiding behind our keyboards and started living in the real world a little more often. We’re all human beings, not a number on somebody’s follower count, so start acting like one.