What is it about only knowing someone through a TV set or social media that destroys any concept we have of them as a human?
The assault on the chief medical officer Dr Chris Whitty caught my attention recently (see what happened here). It wasn’t particularly mean spirited, I don’t think, but it was done with an attitude of complete disregard for him as a human.
Why do people think it’s ok to behave like this with a complete stranger?
Worse is the abhorrent abuse following what’s supposed to be entertainment regardless of whether you supported England or Italy.
I’ve been listening to Matt Lucas’s autobiography and it’s unbelievable hearing the liberties people think they can take when someone is perceived as a celebrity, it’s as if they’re not human like the rest of us.
Beyond this though, the same dehumanisation is happening to the avatars we see on social media. Insta, FB, TT, SC etc provide us all with a platform to show the world what we want them to see. It’s a highlights reel, of course and we’re being bombarded with images of perfect lives from all angles, all the time, with no context and no indication of the spaces between the noise.
Of course, most people don’t share the boring or depressing stuff, the nappy changes, the 2am wailings, the stress, the long hours or the commute to work but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Much as what you see of politicians, celebs or influencers on socials is just a small part of their existence, there are still people with real lives and families behind the public mask.
Witch-hunts of celebrities and politicians have existed for many years before social media, when newspapers would harangue and chastise the latest flavour of the month. People are just following what they’ve seen before, but now it’s not written in a handful of avoidable tabloids, it’s everywhere you look.
I’m not sure where this ends because it shows no sign of abating and there seems to be a very tepid response to police it.
Everyone has a right to free speech but if I was walking down the street with someone threatening and hurling abuse at me, I would expect that person to be arrested, if the police were able to identify and find them. Online, it’s so much easier to identify most people that it’s criminal that it’s being allowed to continue on such a scale.
Telling Mark Zuckerberg and co to delete offensive posts and start banning people is like muting the TV or taking the bulb out of the warning light on your dashboard. It might make you feel better if you can’t hear it or see it, but it doesn’t mean there’s not still a problem.
The digital world is evolving faster than the protectors. The small number of people who think it’s ok to behave this way is growing and it’s growing because it’s become the perceived norm without consequence.
Who is going to step up to the challenge and stem the rising tide of e-hate?
Who is going to realise that the victims of this abuse online are still humans who deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else?