Thursday, 9 February 2017

Is the social media age leading to a world of intolerance?

The woman was only feeding the pigeons, not a capital crime. This was an initial response to a recent dialogue on Facebook, relating to a local woman who feeds pigeons. The concerns arose because the woman’s actions are also encouraging rats in the area.

The issue of rats was raised pre-Christmas, with the council moving to address the issue. A lot of local people were rightly concerned. Some pointed the finger at a known local figure, who feeds the pigeons, consequently also providing sustenance for the rats.

Now the saga has resumed. A concerned neighbour spotted someone feeding the pigeons, near a sign saying don’t feed the pigeons. There were pigeons and a couple of rats. It seems unclear if it was this known local woman, who does feed the pigeons and will give a fair old mouthful of abuse if challenged about the activity. However, the vitriolic response to the reporting of the alleged activity on a Facebook page has been harsh.

The responses have varied from “she drives me up the wall..selfish cow” and “I can’t stand her” to “she’s a nasty cow, been told loads of times, should lock her up lol” and “everyone should video her and send it to environmental health”  

Now, the frustration is understandable – my own contribution to the dialogue was that the incidents should be reported to the council. However, the level of intolerance displayed is worrying.

This episode is but a small example of how people feel free to express their every frustration on social media. Would these individuals say such things, if they had to sit down and write a long hand letter? Would they speak in such away in a face to face context? I doubt it.

Social media is becoming a free for all for people to vent their most aggressive – and, at times, most sensitive, - feelings - with no holds barred.

It is a strange phenomena, I have never been able to understand how people will share their most intimate details, like pregnancy scans, with virtually total strangers in cyber space, whilst not discussing such subjects on a face to face basis with close confidants.

In the case of our pigeon feeder the atmosphere engendered in this short set of posts has a feeling of the witch hunt.

The wider worry must be that these type of dialogues go on right across the internet, helping in a cumulative way to build a more intolerant and judgemental society.

Social media is a great tool that can do much good but it can also be an agent of intolerance and catalyst to stir unrest and misinformation in our society. We all need to take care, think before we post or blog..and maybe take a break sometimes from the whole forum.

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