Following the murder of David Amess MP I was made aware of a comment on my twitter feed telling me in two words that I shouldn’t have any empathy with a Tory MP. And there was a comment on the First Minister’s twitter feed saying she should die.
Both comments were vile and thankfully in the minority. But we do have an increasing self-righteous horde of people that see nothing wrong with using spiteful language on social media. They mock and deride people like bullies in a primary school playground and see no consequences of their own actions.
When we use language that is designed to demean and diminish individuals, there is always the danger the weak and the disenfranchised are empowered by that and may act upon it. We all have a duty to consider the consequences of our own actions. Who are you appealing to and will they act with restraint?
While we continue to allow behaviour on social media that we would not allow in person, we provide a safe harbour for these bullies and fantasists. This adds to their appetite for dehumanising other people and once you dehumanise someone then it’s more likely that they will be the target for abuse. Consequently, the perpetrators malevolence can fester and grow and occasionally it can even raise its ugly head in the real world. Often via a proxy.
I fear that following the murder of David Amess MP we will be temporarily shocked and make all the right noises about monitoring the media and mending our ways just as we did after the death of Jo Cox MP but in reality, nothing changed.
The internet is full of people with opinions and that’s a good thing. But we need to understand that at the receiving end, of what can often descend into abuse, is not just another digital device, it’s a person with family, friends and feelings. You won’t know their own personal circumstances, you don’t know if they are strong and able to cope with your opinions. We don’t know what drives a person to kill another human being but we can monitor our own media presence and ensure that the final straw was not of our own making.