A trawl through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter (whilst Instagram, for now, prioritises the right angle and filter applied to a photo) these days is, more frequently than not, a cringeworthy documentary of people laying into each other, slating their differing views, dragging each other through the proverbial sewers in the most disgusting and, at times, inhumane ways. To me it appears that a lot of people forget that there is a real human being on the other side. Sometimes I wish I was brave enough to join so-called “discussions” (although really, the verbal vomit couldn’t be further from a civilised conversation) to point out the often racist, sexist and politically incorrect drivel typed, usually in badly formed sentences with even worse spelling and a severe lack of grasp on basic grammar. Some of my friends intervene and I admire them. However, I have seen that most of those people cannot be argued with, so it is a pointless exercise to me and a waste of my time. Nevertheless, the existence of the callous and cowardly slating and shaming on social media, detached from a face to face conversation, scares me and makes me wonder what has gone wrong with our world to end up like this.
Recently, an institution got slandered online by some people who a) didn’t have any understanding of the highly complicated industry and b) were quick to hide behind a keyboard to verbally regurgitate their limited and uneducated views, rather than to engage in an adult and diplomatic conversation, complaining and moaning about something they had no first-hand knowledge of, let alone the decency to address the so called issue in an appropriate forum. It got massively blown out of proportion, with hundreds of people reading lie after lie, fabricating one toxic tale after the other, happily tearing into it like sensation-hungry hyenas. It made me sick with anger and indignation. But – I am not really surprised. The world we live in has become hostile and self-righteous. Everyone is entitled, everyone is right and an expert in things they have never even come across. Look at Brexit, for example. Millions think they understand this complex issue yet couldn’t explain what the EU is and how it works. I studied European politics, but even for me the issue is highly complicated and sensitive, so where does the arrogance of so many come from to claim they know it all and think that isolation from the rest of the world is a good idea?
What is more, people will always focus on the bad, taking, it seems, great pleasure in pointing out faults and mistakes of others. Reasons for this, I can only imagine, are to feel better about their own inadequacies and inabilities to sort the mess on their own doorstep. It’s so much easier telling someone else they are at fault rather than focusing on becoming a better person yourself. I am not sure which new levels of nastiness we as a race have to reach to do a much-needed U-turn and start taking care of one another again. World Mental Health Day and countless organisations promoting mental health are all well and good, but if the dialogue online reaches crisis point and the sensational enjoyment of others’ mistakes and differences isn’t brought to a halt, then I am horrified of the intolerant and small-minded future we have ahead of us. The rise of right-wing and atrocious public figures as well as questionable leaders on the political landscape are not the cause but the result of what is currently going on. It starts with a nasty and thoughtless word. It can lead to much worse.