Two people have been jailed for sending rude and abusive tweets today. Stan Collymore has recently reported the racial abuse he suffered for having the audacity to have an opinion on football. Piers Morgan has also handed over names to the police for personal abuse. What has gone wrong with Twitter? Why do members of the public assume they have the right to verbally abuse strangers on the basis of fame? What, if anything, can Twitter do about such abuses?
The answer to question one is the general public mixing with their heroes. When we meet the people we put on pedestals or interact with them on impersonal social networks we will almost inevitably suffer disappointment. We long for the knowledge that our heroes are just like us but when we discover thats true we become unable to deal with the reality of how mundane their daily actions are as this confronts us with our own mundane existence laid bare.
Subsequently we seem to transpose our own feelings of self loathing onto the rich and famous for not being what we expect and confronting us with our own very average lives. This transposition takes the form of abuse and is justified on the basis that they put themselves out there. I put myself out there with social media sites, a job that involves public interaction and a blog with a reader in Halifax. This doesn’t mean that strangers have the right to publicly berate me on that basis.
What can twitter do? Very little in reality, to be fair they are waking up and starting to act upon the problem but as these people can reactivate new accounts in any number of ways it is hard to police. The onus therefore is on the general public to change their attitudes and actions not the social network to police in entirety. How many people knew the attackers of Stan Collymore and how many reported them should be the real question not what can Twitter do to stop them.
Ultimately we all have a responsibility to others, no different in principle to driving or shopping. The only difference is the safety of anonymity that the internet provides for the few to enact their vitriolic cowardice at strangers. Well they should take heed of the cautionary tale of James O’Brien who used twitter to attack boxer Curtis Woodhouse who consequently drove to the formers house to confront him whilst tweeting his progress. I guess if you get fraped on Facebook be wary of being twatted on twitter