Much internet journalism at level equivalent to Stone Age
A few months ago, I was told by an online media expert that, on the basis of a column of mine, he often cites me as an example of someone who doesn’t know how to make the best use of Twitter.
I was delighted. In common with most other new media outlets, Twitter is used mainly as a platform for corporate advertising and self-promotion; spreading gossip, rumour and lies; and heaping abuse upon others. Who would want to be considered as anything but inept in that sphere?
I don’t follow the right people, according to the expert. Perhaps he’s correct. Perhaps it would be more enlightening to read what Noam Chomsky is having for his breakfast, rather than Stephen Fry. Someone I do follow on Twitter is Piers Morgan, who, aside from being a shameless self-promoter, is extremely witty and, surprisingly, quite self-deprecating. He also likes to correct the grammar of other tweeters.
It’s all very basic stuff, amounting to little more than what a dwindling number of us would have learnt before leaving primary school – such as the differences between “were” and “where”; “hear” and “here”; and “there”, their” and “they’re” – but which nowadays is unlikely to have been taught to a substantial number of those making their way through university.
Twitter would serve a more useful purpose if other passably literate tweeters followed Morgan’s lead. Although they would have their work cut out, given how long it’s been since educators in Ireland and the UK considered learning the basic rules of written English to be of much importance to children.
New media takes itself very seriously indeed, except when charged with causing enormous damage to people’s lives by facilitating bullying, rumour-mongering and character assassination. Then its champions become coy and defensive. They invariably seek to downplay the role online harassment might have played in, for instance, causing someone to take his or her own life.
It is true, as the now stock defence has it, that suicide normally results from a combination of factors. However, it is ludicrous to pretend where a victim had been subjected to a campaign of online bullying and denigration that this was not the most likely reason for him or her taking their own life.
The more callous, if honest, defenders of anything-goes-on-the-internet adopt a dismissive “if they can’t stand the heat …” attitude.
Arguably, politicians are fair game and, even more so, columnists and commentators (who, unlike politicians, can air their views on whatever subject they like, without ever having to seek any kind of public endorsement), but the majority of people being bullied belong to neither of these groups.