Hiding Behind a Keyboard – the Darker Side of Twitter
August 2, 2012
By: Laura Hunter
In life, you are always going to get people who take pleasure in being negative, abusive and foul mouthed. In an age dominated by social networking sites, Twitter in particular, it is getting easier and easier for “internet trolls” to hide behind their keyboard and hurl abuse at actors, musicians and sports stars. It is rare for anyone high profile to avoid such abuse and it demands the questions: how can we allow these “trolls” to continue to post messages? Why are we accepting that abusive messages are part of the package of becoming a figure in the public eye? Realistically, there cannot be a way to remove all “trolls” from Twitter, despite there being a procedure to report, block or remove someone from the site. Are these ramifications enough to deter trolling however? Apparently not it would seem.
One case of “trolling” that has blasted into the media is regarding Tom Daley. On the third day of the Olympics, following a 4th place finish in the 10m synchronized platform diving, Daley was sent an abusive and disrespectful tweet that has shocked the nation due to its reference to Daley’s late father. The “troller” told Daley that he had let his father down and then proceeded to send other negative and expletive messages. Whilst the performance was somewhat disappointing – Daley and partner Peter Waterfield were expected to medal – the British pair placed fourth on the day, effectively making them the fourth best diving partnership in the world. This achievement is made all the more impressive as this performance followed a year which 18 year old Daley has himself described as “the toughest year of his life” and included the loss of his father to a brain tumor.
The author of said tweets is a renowned “troller” and previous complaints and petitions to get him removed from Twitter had been launched, yet he was still able to send tweets to Daley. The relative safety of hiding behind a keyboard and those precious 140 characters gives some people notions of power and the belief that they can abuse anyone they see fit. Despite procedure Twitter appears to be slow to react when reports are made.
Unfortunately, Daley’s case is not the only one to draw the media’s attention. In recent months there have been other cases of “trolling” that have destroyed the limits of what it is acceptable to post online. ‘Made in Chelsea’ stars Spencer Mathews and Louise Thompson received death threats via twitter following their behaviour on the reality programme; England rugby star Ben Youngs deleted his Twitter account following abusive tweets he received and Lord Alan Sugar regularly tweets about “de-scumming” his timeline of insulting tweets.
One of the brilliant things about Twitter is that the general public is offered a glimpse into the real life of a celebrity; Twitter is a fantastic way of celebrating achievements, offering commiserations and showing support, but it also leaves celebrities vulnerable and the way it is misused can be hugely negative. If a member of the public was sent relentless abuse via the internet it would be cyber bullying, yet for someone famous, it appears to be part of the job nowadays. This cannot be justified and whilst ignoring “trolls” is often the best way to deal with them, this cannot be the solution. Abuse over the internet should not be tolerated, whomever it is aimed at.
Images: http://twitter.com/images/resources/twitter-bird-white-on-blue.png; http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02290/tom-daley_2290389b.jpg