As subject choices for first posts go, Noel Edmonds is, I admit, an odd one. Bear with me.
In a recent Guardian article, Edmonds related his experience of trolling and came up with this choice quote.
“…if people are not more responsible you know what is going to happen – the state, those politicians are going to take this huge freedom away, they will try and control it in a way they try and control so many things and that I believe would be an absolute disaster for society and would have massive ramifications for all of us in the future. So responsible use of social media is absolutely vital to life in Britain.”
As unlikely a source of revelation he might seem, what Edmonds said really struck a chord with me, and not just in relation to social media but in regards to the internet as a whole. Obviously, I’m not claiming the internet is a digital Wild West, entirely without regulation or laws, but I think the relative freedom offered by the internet in comparison to the real world might have gone to some people’s heads.
We do need to start taking more responsibility for what goes on on-line. For a start we could take a leaf out of Adam Sessler’s book, a respected digital journalist and a key voice in the games industry. In this video, Sessler calls on all of us to take a more active approach in tackling the bigotry that gets thrown around in online gameplay. Any of you who play games online must have, at some point, experienced it, whether it was directed at you or not. After a particularly successful game of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I received an angry message from an opponent branding me a ‘Jewish prick’. Safe to say, I reported the user but would I have done anything if that slur had been directed at another player? Perhaps not, but maybe it’s something we should all start doing. Is online racism the thin end of the wedge for a younger generation who grow up with it and see it as ‘the norm’?
We can’t pretend that the digital world is any less than that, a world; a world that is subject to all the morals, social mores and laws of the physical world we live in. We wouldn’t let someone hurl racist abuse at a person in the street, so why should we let people get away with it online. It doesn’t even have to be tackling something as abhorrent as racism. It would be great if some people could realise that just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Take this tweet:
Now, clearly there will always be a certain amount of nastiness floating around wherever we go and that will never really change. But, to make that comment AND include Grace Dent by way of her Twitter handle is way over the line. WHY does she need to be involved in that tweet? It’s one thing if she searches her name to see what comes up, although I still don’t think it’s ok. This tweeter proactively involved the subject in his digital nastiness.
Equally, the backlash that the Daily Mail article about Samantha Brick wrote (no, I’m NOT going to link to the Daily Mail site) exposed the nastier side of the internet. As bad as her article was, did it really justify the drubbing she got as a result? This tweet from Sali Hughes summed it up for me.
See, I must have agreed; I retweeted it.
If trolling and general internet abuse is left unchecked, what will the result be? Will it result in platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the wide variety of blogging services introducing increasingly more draconian rules to try and police the situation? Maybe not but I think the internet is a valuable enough resource for us to want to police it ourselves, right?
I feel bad. This is my first ever post and I’ve started with a rant. Obviously there’s a lot of shit things about the internet but there’s a whole load more good stuff out there. And, for every example I’ve cited here, there HAVE been people who’ve actively voiced concern and displeasure at the nasty side of the internet.
But as the internet more and more becomes a part of everyone’s life, we need to remember it’s an environment that’s as perfect or as poisonous as we make it.