It’s already begun. It’s only the first day of “Lockdown 2”, and already the wave of negativity on social media is threatening to overwhelm.
Everyone is angry at everyone else, and all anyone seems to want to do is talk about how angry they are.
People tweeting about how busy the tube is – while still travelling on the tube themselves. Bemoaning the “covidiots” (a phrase I utterly loathe). Taking sly photos of people not wearing masks or of groups of more than six (without permission) and sharing them… presumably just to enjoy a moment of smug satisfaction as they publically shame some anonymous strangers.
Obviously, I’m not saying that anyone breaking lockdown rules isn’t in the wrong. But the behind-the-back shaming and publicly broadcast judgy-ness just seems so needlessly negative – a bit smug and holier-than-thou. And it’s so pointless.
Last lockdown, newspapers and radio stations spun whole stories out of the social media posts of completely random individuals. I remember one story covering the apparently raging debate between dog-walkers and joggers. If you listened to the way the papers told it, dog-walkers the nation over were rising up against path-hogging joggers who ran too close, panted too much, and, I don’t know, wore too much lycra?! The Sunday Times talked about an “army of joggers” forcing walkers off the paths. Jeremy Vine debated it for an hour on his show. It was all a bit ludicrous.
The root of the story, as far as I could tell, came from social media. The odd tweet from a disgruntled dog walker here, an annoyed Facebook post from a jogger there… and somehow these snowballed into two angry sides getting cross with each other on the internet.
Without social media, this wouldn’t ever have been a news story. How could it? You might get back from a jog or a walk and whinge to your family/partner/housemate/whoever about some annoying passerby. Maybe even text a friend to vent about it for a while. Then you’d forget about it and go on with your life.
Publically posting about a random instance means other people can get involved and share their own experiences. Which means you don’t forget and move on. Instead, you dwell, and you become more entrenched in the certainty that you were right and the other person was wrong. Sides form.
And, pressed for stories to fill the demand of 24-hour live-coverage of an event that doesn’t actually need hourly updates, the press turn those social media whinges into a “news” story that only further encourages the division.
Even when social media posts don’t become a national news story, they still spread negativity… and that’s something none of us needs right now!
If you post on social media about someone breaking lockdown rules, you might get a few likes and shares from people who already agree with you. But you won’t change the mind of anyone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to fully comply with this lockdown. If anything, you’ll push them further into their own view.
And don’t get me started on all the negative nicknames. ALL of them. The supposedly “woke” and open-minded left love a stereotype as much as the right. Remoaners vs Brexiteers. Gammon vs Snowflakes. Covidiots. Karens. My god do I feel sorry for anyone who’s actually called Karen these days. Someone’s opinion differs from ours and we simply write them off with a cruel nickname and tell ourselves that they’re just another one “like all the others”. Call them names, stick our fingers in our ears, and chant la-la-la-I’m-not-listening.
Even if someone is wrong – for example, they’re breaking the new lockdown laws, or they’re potentially endangering others by not socially distancing… that’s no excuse for name-calling, public tattle-telling, or general playground behaviour.
When did we stop trying to fight ignorance with reason and rationality, and start fighting with name-calling and, worse, sneakily taken photographs which are, let’s face it, borderline online bullying?
How about, instead of spending the next four months judging other people (especially when we don’t know anything about them or if there are any special circumstances for what they’re doing), we try to spread a bit more positivity? Lockdown might be a lot more bearable this time around if we stamp out some of that online anger!
So to end on a nice cliche note… can’t we all just get along?!
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts… so please do scroll down and leave a comment!