Smart phones are steadily turning us into the dumbest of users.
The technology is fabulous, and has opened up a worldwide network of communication.
And we’ve taken it to the very bottom of the barrel, and then scraped down through the mulch to find another, lower layer.
At least, they used to.
Then came social media.
Words became weapons to attack, to bludgeon, to bully, to sneer and to mock.
We now have free range to comment on the issues of the day – big and small – thanks to places such as Facebook and Twitter.
And they’re great platforms to engage with people.
But they come with a dark, horrid underbelly which is about as pleasant as wading barefoot through slurry.
Because, in 2017, we have normalised abuse.
What we write online we wouldn’t dream of repeating to someone’s face, but online too many simply don’t care.
They are angry about an issue, and will express it in the strongest possible terms.
Slam some words into the screen, hit ‘send’ and your 140 character assassination is there for all to see.
Below the line comments – the responses to stories posted on the web – range from the sharp and witty, to the soul-destroying and sickening.
The art of debate has been debased. No-one cares about the impact their words might have. Well, they’re only words after all.
The greatest lie ever told was that stick and stones would break your bones, but names would never harm you – the time-honoured response to anyone who’d been verbally bullied.
It was wrong then. It remains deeply, and dangerously wrong in a society where young people can be bullied 24/7, where it is too easy to mock, to scorn, to vilify and never be held to account.
On social media it’s called ‘a conversation.’
Social media clearly doesn’t do irony.
Pick any media outlet’s social media platform at random, find a court case and dive into the comments.
One word will pop up every second setence.
Everyone who ever appears in court is a scumbug, a dirty scumbag or a lowlife scumbag.
A recent attack of a sexual nature brought out the lynchmob mentality in four chilling words. ‘‘Some rope, a lampost ...’’
Another case saw the instant, knee-jerk venom pouring out of the screen.
Can we just shoot him?
Castrate the beast!
Put a bullet in his head!
Hope he gets opened up inside.
How’s that for a grown-up, mature ‘conversation?’
Has that grim underlying desire for such raw vengeance always been there? If so, I want out.
I’m all for robust debate and strongly believe you have the right to express yourself, but this stuff is just gross.
And on social media, it spews out every hour of every day. It’s too glib to dismiss it as froth – it is – but the bile within it is corrosive, and we should all be challenging it as well as removing it.
Because words matter.