Every day I get to work, fire up the Quattro (my computer) and hang around online to find out what’s going on. Most of the time it’s cool news about a wicked cool new site, a hilarious pun, or an interesting article. Some days Twitter makes me laugh out loud at my desk and I find people to follow who make me wish I could be that funny.
Other days, however, the internet makes me want to go inside my house and not come out again for a very long time. The past couple of days have been just like that.
Sidebar: Every Tom, Dick and Harry has had their opinions on the death of Robin Williams over the past week or so and, whilst that’s not what this article is about in its entirety, it is what prompted me to write it. So here it goes.
Twenty years ago, when a prominent celebrity died, it was on the news, and it was in the papers. Sure, people were talking about it and offering up their opinions, but they were doing so to their own friends and family, they were gossiping down the newsagents and chatting to their hairdresser. These days, people’s opinions are everywhere, and they are hard to escape.
I logged out of Facebook and Twitter several times last week, which I never normally do, because I was getting so mad about everyone trying to say their bit about the death of Robin Williams, but save from actually going offline for a whole day I couldn’t avoid it. It’s the headline on one news site, there are three stories in the sidebar of another, and another bloody radio presenter has just given their opinion on it as well.
But that’s not it, because I’m aware that that’s the age of information that we not live in, so I’m just going to have to put up with it.
No, what really made me want to go and lie down in a darkened room for the rest of the week was a tweet I saw from BBC Trending, which says that Robin Williams’ daughter has left Twitter for the foreseeable future after receiving abuse about her father’s death. AT LEAST two people actually sent her photoshopped images claiming to show her father’s body. Who actually does that? And what is the fucking point? If you know the answer to either of these questions, could you please enlighten me? Because I’m really struggling to get my head around it.
Judging other people has become so easy these days. Seeing a picture of someone you don’t know online and commenting underneath that they look like a fat fucking slug, and then carry on going about your day is simple and you don’t think twice about it.
Imagine actually going up to someone on the street and judging them totally on their appearance, where they buy their groceries, or what newspaper they choose to read. You just wouldn’t do it.
I’m not usually one for totally lame Tumblr quotes, but there’s one I’ve seen that’s totally relevant to this post. Plus, this one has a sassy lion in it, so there’s that.
You literally have absolutely no idea what anyone else is going through. You don’t know whether that person at the bus stop is overweight because they’re just out of recovery from a savage injury that left them bed bound for weeks, and you don’t know whether that person who looks miserable whilst they’re walking along isn’t just returning from the vets because they’ve had to have their dog put down. So why is it any different online?
We need to start being kind to each other, because being mean online is going to start filtering through into real life. You’re going to start thinking that the person who has just glanced at you in the street is judging you for what you’re wearing, or the fact that you’ve just bought three multi-packs of Space Raiders from Poundland.
Just because you don’t agree with someone’s choices doesn’t give you the right to abuse them, we all just need to accept we’re into different things, have different beliefs, different strengths and weaknesses.
I’m probably going to explode if I see one more person confess that they are a ‘grammar nazi’, and then use that as an excuse to be a total disk about someone’s spalling. So what if they can’t spell onomatopoeia, can you recite pi to 47 different digits? No. We all have our different strengths, just because someone’s isn’t spelling doesn’t mean you can patronise them into the ground.
The problem online is that everyone thinks their opinions matter. So if they think something is disgusting or offensive or whatever, you can bet they’ll be complaining about it. You can tell me you think I look fat in that dress, or that I shouldn’t spend money on stickers to fill up my World Cup sticker album, or that I shouldn’t suck my thumb because I’m 26 and that’s what children do. But I don’t give a fuck. I’m not going to change any of those things based on what you’ve told me, and Rochelle from The Saturdays probably isn’t going to start showing her baby’s face on her Instagram account just because you think she should.
The kicker is, is that I’m struggling to work out why. What is the point of all the aggression and anger on the internet? When you walk down the street, most people you see seem pretty ok, they’re not walking along continuously yelling at every single person they see, so why is it happening online?
It’s so soul destroying to see people being horrible to each other. People work so hard to gain the courage to put themselves out there on the internet, whether it’s a picture or a blog post or a song they have recorded. They don’t need your shitty opinions and your negative attitude commenting on it to bring them down. They already have their problems; they don’t need you to add to it.
I know most of you reading this are probably stand up citizens, and I’m certainly not saying I’m perfect, but I think we all just need to start being a bit kinder to each other.
So do something decent for someone else today. Leave enough change at Starbucks for another cup of coffee so the person in the queue behind you gets theirs for free, let that person that 12 other cars have just driven past out at that tricky junction, or buy your friend that book your were telling them about on Amazon, just because. It’s not hard, and it will make you feel so much better. I promise.
PR exec who likes finding funnies and cool stuff online. Print journalism graduate.