I despair of Facebook at times – truly despair. The social media network was meant to let folk stay in touch, post endless holiday photos and take part in daft quizzes; all fun and froth.
But the days when we spent hours on nonsense such as Farmville have been replaced by a desire to criticise and condemn every time there’s a major breaking news story.
The ‘below the line’ comments seeth with knee jerk anger as folk lash out at people and institutions – the distance between them and the topic giving them carte blanche to go for the throat.
Take this week’s big talking point. A kid goes to a zoo in America, tumbles over the wall and into the enclosure which houses a gorilla.
Of course, it’s filmed and the footage uploaded to Facebook, and, the moment the authorities killed the animal to save the life of the four-year old, Facebook users became instant experts on the nuanced behavioural instincts of a 400lb silverback when faced with a kid falling into their enclosure.
On the basis of 90 seconds of shaky smartphone footage they were able to a) fully assess the situation b) castigate the mum in the crudest possible terms for clearly being a bad parent and c) attack the authorities who decided the only solution was to shoot dead the beast.
The comments posted on assorted Facebook pages defied belief. It was imposible to find a calm voice or someone who was able to stand back and look at the whole picture. Even when the entire two minutes plus of filmed footage was published to reveal the animal dragging the kid through the water at terrifying speed, the messages stating ‘‘RIP Harambe’’ continued to pour in.
We seemed to confuse the Jungle Book with real life as we prayed for the soul of the poor, departed Harambe – of course a ‘Justice for Harambe’ page was started on Facebook, while pictures of the beast and the message ‘Died while doing nothing wrong’’ whizzed round the social media site.
And then there was a pointless vigil complete with people holding posters with his date of birth and death as if he was some sort of martyr.
When exactly did we lose the plot?
Of course it was tragic the animal was shot, but just stop for a second and think.
Imagine that was YOUR kid who’d fallen. A day at the zoo – a normal family outing – suddenly spirals into sheer terror. You have one outcome – a savage death in front of your eyes, or the authorities shoot the animal. Go on – make the call.
And please spare me the ‘‘oh I would NEVER lose sight of MY kids’’ – every single parent I know has experienced that split second, stomach churning moment when they slip off your radar and you start scouring the landscape like a CIA agent.
The zoo’s director nailed it brilliantly. Asked how it could happen he simply said: “Do you know any four-year-olds? They can climb over anything.”
They can. They do. They did.
And Harambe’s Facebook fans? They’ll have forgotten about him the moment they seize on the next ‘outrage’ ... and on social media, that’s probably about 15 minutes away.