Tag Archives: Social Media

How have we come to this?

Every now and then I stumble across something that makes me wonder how on earth we got to this state. Admittedly, this does happen more often now than it used to when I was younger; and I would grudgingly admit that I have recently become more grumpy about things that would have passed me by completely a decade or two ago.

Today’s double-take moment came with a Tweet that referred to today as “World Kindness Day”. Initially, you think : ‘Oh! That’s nice’. But then you think : what sort of world are we living in that it’s necessary to designate a special day to remind people to be kind? Surely kindness is as natural in the human condition as breathing? Who are these people who spend so much time being unkind that we need to have a special day to remind them that courtesy, decency and looking out for one another might be worth a try?

But then I thought about it again and it suddenly all became very clear. So much of our public discourse now is mediated through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, and so much of the content on those platforms is nasty, brutish and short. It is much easier in 280 characters to launch an ad hominem attack on someone with whom you disagree, than it is to attempt to engage that person in debate. And the lack of forums in which people can properly engage with ideas rather than rubbishing the people who hold those ideas, has percolated into our wider public discourse. Worse than that, the ubiquity of social media and our obsession with it, means that all too often we walk around with our eyes fixed on our screens, so utterly self-absorbed that we miss out on the chance to see opportunities to be kind.

Anyway, I hope that you have had the chance today both to do something kind, and to be on the receiving end of a kindness.

Social media pros and cons

I happened upon this story on the BBC news website today. It’s a really interesting case study in the benefits and perils of social media. Twitter in particular has a tendency to be incredibly supportive/funny/informative/challenging, and negative/insulting/abusive/ vindictive – all at the same time. It tends not to be a platform that encourages nuance and subtlety – the requirement for brevity (even after the increase in the character limit to 280) often leads to the sacrifice of balance on the altar of impact. But it can also be a brilliant introduction to wider discussions, either through the use of threads of tweets, or the inclusion of links to other websites or blogs where more complex arguments are developed in greater detail. This is the approach that is deployed by some of my favourite users of Twitter, including @davidallengreen and @BarristerSecret.

The former has been a consistently reliable and balanced commentator on the legal and political processes surrounding Brexit, and the unavoidable legalities that EU Treaties and the Article 50 requirements place on the UK government and the EU. He has consistently (and without bias or favour) pointed out the inaccuracies and impossibilities of positions put forward by Leavers, Remainers and (occasionally) even the EU itself. His predictions of the complexity of the withdrawal process and the dangers of thinking that it would either speedy or straightforward have been consistently proved right.

@BarristerSecret is a practising barrister who works extensively in the criminal justice arena and who highlights the absurdity of cuts to the courts and wider criminal justice system, and the appalling impact that austerity has had on justice for both victims and those accused of committing crimes. In addition, Tweets from the Secret Barrister are an essential go-to whenever the popular press picks up on an apparently lenient sentence or some other alleged calumny by either a judge or lawyer in a criminal case. The patient explanation of sentencing guidelines and their application in cases that attract tabloid fury, provide an invaluable insight into the constraints within which judges work, and the (often) unintended consequences of poorly conceived, politically motivated guidance.

Twitter can also be spectacularly entertaining. This beauty comes from Brian Bilston, my favourite pop poet, and coincides with the launch of the latest series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It seems a suitable way to sign off today’s post!