Don’t blame Twitter for the awfulness of human beings

Steve Dinneen
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Social media generally means you can get away with seeing less of people, which is great, because most people are unbearably awful.

It also means you can carefully vet the people you interact with and block them at will, on a whim, just for the hell of it. You can pretend to be erudite and urbane instead of the social equivalent of a dropped birthday cake. It’s a good system. It works. You should try it – just don’t expect to be my friend. I’ll probably hate you.

The system, though, has its drawbacks, one of which is that it can be difficult to filter out life beyond your digital bunker. You find the outside world creeping in, taking you by surprise, like noticing the person you’re sharing a decompression chamber with has just passed wind. This week a variety of people have demonstrated this, playing their parts like hideous trained monkeys in a fetid online sideshow so grotesque it makes you want to gouge your eyes out with the fingers of the person sitting next to you.

Topping this week’s table of human beings who make me pray for global Armageddon was Liam Stacey, who admitted to posting on Twitter how amusing he found it when Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a near fatal heart attack during a game last week, before proceeding to racially abuse him. Another chap is due to stand trial for allegedly posting offensive messages about dead soldiers on his Facebook page. And one man made the news for refusing to post a month’s worth of daily Facebook apologies to his ex-wife (a punishment that has given me a newfound respect for the bonkers US judicial system) after posting a series of vindictive comments about her.

You can hardly blame social media, though. People have always been prone to revealing what unpleasant, lumbering goons they are when under the cover of anonymity. They are the same people who scrawl racist graffiti in public toilets – the internet just makes your living room that toilet. In this increasingly strained metaphor, that makes social media merely the pen.

Incidentally, a study published this week found that social networks are also associated with a kind of “socially aggressive narcissism”. The bigger your pool of friends, the more likely you are to mail naked photographs of yourself to public figures. Or something. I didn’t actually finish reading it. I was too busy updating my Facebook status. It’s hilarious.