I can’t be the only one who has noticed how judgmental people are these days. And what better forum than online where one can hide behind a screen? In Britain we wouldn’t berate a complete stranger in the street for their views on Brexit, parenting skills or choice of clothes but on social media it is open season to sit as judge and jury on anyone and anything.
A few days ago I watched two enormous altercations unfold on Facebook, the first in a whippet forum where a dog owner’s innocent question about raw food versus dry suddenly turned into a really nasty slanging match. It seemed every man (and his dog) was an expert veterinary nutritionist, and insults and personal remarks were being flung around freely. At the same time on a local group for my town a lady posted a query about some roadworks and bang! Three men got into a highly charged and vicious online fight where accusations of bad driving skills quickly escalated into penis size speculation. It seems many of us have regressed to playground style name-calling.
I have been on the receiving end of similar attacks by trolls on the TripAdvisor travel forum where the downright spite aimed at me after I posted an innocent travel question reduced me to tears and I have never been back. And a couple of weeks ago on Twitter I was piggy in the middle when two very large animal welfare organisations began trading accusations and barbs through my Twitter account after I tweeted both of them to ask the question why, as they both love dogs, they couldn’t work together at Crufts. I watched astonished, feeling like a referee in a boxing match whilst feeling sad that two powerful organisations couldn’t put politics and differences aside.
So why is it OK to judge and criticise others so harshly online? When did this become the norm and why does it so often happen without those doing the judging and trolling knowing the full facts? Why do we think we are experts on everything and therefore entitled to sit in judgment on our fellow human beings? In real life, as opposed to our often highly edited cyber life, we are all just trying to do the best we can. I don’t get it right all the time but on the whole I try to be a good wife, daughter, neighbour, friend, citizen and consumer with respect for those around me. (Unless I have PMT in which case stand back everyone!)
On social media I try to just scroll on and accept that people have different views without judging or straying into the murky world of trolling. But some of the frankly vile and hateful comments I see posted are astonishing, aimed at those who are just going about their lives peacefully and legally. A friend of mine who is a fan of a particular clothing designer commented recently that she felt very sad about some of the vitriol and scorn posted on the designer’s Facebook page. If you don’t like the clothes, unfollow the page. Why be so downright nasty for the sake of it? I have also noticed many of the women’s magazines have accounts on social media where they will post a picture of a celebrity or an outfit and ask for comments which to me only seems to open the floodgates of caustic remarks and spite. Why encourage us to judge each other so harshly? As women we should be empowering each other which is a reason why I love celebrities such as Katie Piper and Lorraine Kelly who encourage positivity.
And this seems to be exclusively online. Opinionated and inflammatory people in the public eye such as Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are not liked. (Yes, I know they love to be notorious and it’s their USP and I maintain that if we ignore them they will simply cease to exist!) But I have seen remarks online from the public that make Katie Hopkins seem like a mild-mannered saint. Would those who post such judgmental remarks actually say them to a stranger if they met them in the street or does hiding behind a screen give a sense of bravado?
Please let’s be kinder to each other. Modern life is hard enough without us turning on our fellow humans. I think the advice from my mother’s generation is still relevant today: if you can’t say [or post] something nice, it’s best not to say [or post] anything at all.
And please do look at JK Rowling’s Twitter account to read her wonderful and pithy put-downs to her trolls. That woman is a national treasure.