Love it or hate it, social media is here and it is here to stay. While living away from most of my friends and family Facebook gives me a way of feeling connected with those people who may not be so good at replying to emails or picking up the phone, although I have lost count of the amount of times that I have sworn blind that I would delete my account after reading yet another braggy post about X’s new job/boyfriend/haircut/etc./etc. Similarly, after being outraged by Strictly’s elimination on Sunday, I was quick in heading to Twitter to find like-minded (read: social life free) people – mainly because I just wanted to check that I had been watching the same dances that the judges had. In the moment of feeling irritated, it would have been very easy to have used the @ tag for the contestant that I believe should have been eliminated. But I didn’t because behind that tag is a person who is trying incredibly hard (while I’m sitting on the sofa drinking a pleasant glass of Rioja – I’m in NO position to judge) and doesn’t need online abuse. I did notice that other people were including their personal account in their messages and it made me feel uneasy.
It’s been said time and again, but sadly needs constantly re-iterating, that when you put something on Twitter although you may feel like on your own or just chatting with a group of mates, using a hashtag, using an @ – in fact just putting it out there at all – means that there it is for all to see. Even with that handy delete button, in the days of phones that can screen grab you can never truly undo something that you have done online.
Which brings me to the recent case of the #Bloodycyclists driver. You may have seen this case in the media, but for those who haven’t, a 22 year old woman clipped a cyclist with her car, knocking him off his bike and then failed to stop. She then later Tweeted about the incident and this lead to a court case where she was found guilty of failing to stop after an accident and failing to report it.
What I found interesting about this case is that it’s part of a trend of people found guilty of incidents that they have either reported over Twitter or where the incident its self happened over Twitter. The second interesting thing is that this woman has also been subjected to abuse over Twitter. Now I don’t condone her actions for a second, and I don’t condone the tone of “voice” and the opinions contained within her Tweet, but she has been taken to court, she has paid the fines and she has got points on her licence. As far as the justice system of the UK is concerned, justice has been served, and as someone who adheres to that judicial system, I should be happy with that. As someone who used to cycle in London, I may not be happy with her attitude, but it’s not up to me to decide what is a fair punishment. What I mean is, it’s hard to have sympathy with someone who is in the wrong (as this woman so obviously was), but it is not up to Twitter to mete out justice. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into a system of pop justice, where a case that’s picked up by the media, or someone who may be unpopular, gets more punishment than someone popular.
This case also brings me back to certain high profile cases over the past few years, where justice has been served for numerous unpleasant acts over Twitter (the case of the person who tweeted athlete Tom Daley during the London Olympics springs to mind – pun intended). The texts that were sent to Daley about his recently deceased father were obnoxious, no doubt, and the person who did it was in the wrong, but if that person had said the same vile things to Daley’s face, well it’s unlikely that he would have been arrested, and personally I feel slightly uneasy that he was arrested for putting things on Twitter.
It’s hard to see where the laws surrounding social media are going to end up, but Twitter has completely changed the game, and in my opinion, it’s about time that we as a society had a serious discussion about what is and is not acceptable.
Photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net