Twitter: the abusive minority

I love Twitter. It’s fun, it’s informative and on occasions it’s useful. (That said, the advice I received today upon asking what questions I should ask a second-hand car salesman was woeful.)

But Twitter is also filled with hate. There are people on there who direct their anger and hatred towards people, usually famous people, whose views are at odds with their own; or whose talent or basis for fame is considered questionable.

And this I can’t stand. It’s easy in 140 characters to disparage. It’s much more difficult to put forth reasoned argument. And that has made people lazy.

Don’t get me wrong: opinion is fine. (I’m all for it and even have one or two myself.) And I have no qualms with people expressing these opinions. (Although Gary Barlow’s cheap dig at Carol Decker this evening was wholly unnecessary.) But when those digs become sweary rants aimed at the people themselves (for that is what they are) as opposed to their actions or views, that’s a step too far.

Earlier in the week, Steve Coogan appeared at the Leveson enquiry, saying: “I have never wanted to be famous, as such – fame is a by-product.”

Irrespective of whether the targets of abuse sought fame, they are people, people who should not have to suffer such tirades.

If the press laid into people in the same way as some do on Twitter, most of the Twitterati would be up in arms, as they rightly are with respect to the hacking scandal. Yet because Twitter users generally have many fewer readers than do newspapers (although the gap is closing), the behaviour goes unquestioned.

Ironically, it’s often the left-most Twitter users – those that take offence at the venomous actions of the press – that are the most vociferous when it comes to berating others.

Perhaps self-regulation is fine: those who swearily rant will lose followers, right? Thus diluting the power of their message. But I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. Some people thrive on such hatred. Hatred at the expense of others. So follower numbers will remain high.

I’m not sure I have a solution. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t. Twitter is too big for centralised regulation. Yet something must be done to bring to account those who use freedom of speech as an opportunity to spout angry rhetoric.

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