Not again! by Barbara Nadel

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Call me an old Luddite, a woman more comfortable with absinthe and arsenic than with iPhones and cyber crime – call me Carmen Miranda if you like, I really don’t care. But… Facebook. I know I’ve wanged on about this before but I seem to have been followed around by it, or rather the outfall from it, for the last month. In court, there it was, on the TV, ‘you said this on your Facebook’, Facebook being talked about on the radio, in the newspapers, I’m amazed I haven’t had any dreams about the damn thing! Now in Turkey there’s been a crime of violence. A 36 year old man stabbed by a 25 year old man over comments made by him on Facebook. Apparently – shock, horror – expletives were involved!

Now I know that I am becoming an endangered species in this regard but when it comes to swearing I think it’s big, clever and sometimes extremely creative. My son actually knows a chap who is a ‘swearing consultant’ (for TV and film) and a jolly intelligent, fun and inventive guy he is. He’s also very caring and sensitive. Like me he believes that a good old swear up is good for the stress levels – it certainly makes me feel better. By ‘swear up’ I don’t mean swearing ‘at’ anyone, just letting off steam at the ether using favourite combinations of dirty (and other) naughty words.

But then maybe it’s all that bit more offensive when it’s written down on Facebook. It certainly may be actionable according to laws governing libel. But what’s the point? From what I can gather (as a non-Facebook person) most of this ‘offensiveness’ operates at a very low level. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think we may well be in the realms of ‘Danielle down the chip shop says you’re a slag’ or ‘My girlfriend doesn’t fancy you, she never has, in fact she says you’ve got a face like a gibbon’s bum. Lol.’

Now I admit that the last example was probably a tad sophisticated but you get the gist. You also, I hope, like me, are inclined to think, ‘well who gives a shit.’ With Syria in danger of dissolving into civil war, the spectre of some sort of conflict taking place either in or because of Iran’s nuclear programme as well as the global financial situation, can I bring myself to give a toss what Danielle down the chip shop thinks? Further can I take the time to go out and get a knife and stab someone who said some dodgy things about me or used the word ‘fuck’ in some Facebook inanity?

No I can’t and nor should anyone else. A friend of mine who has, over the years, had quite a bit of fun using ‘social networking’ said to me the other day, ‘I don’t think I can cope with this any more.’ And that’s sad.

Social networking should be fun. It should be an easygoing and casual leisure activity that allows you to keep in contact with old friends and also make some new ones. It shouldn’t be used as a weapon and it most definitely should not be used to bully, harass, stalk or drive people to suicide. When I was at school there were always the girls who bullied others and sneered in groups on street corners. But when you got home you got away from them. Now that isn’t so easy.

Of course I don’t know what to do about this problem – luckily for me I’m not a politician or an IT specialist. But what I do know is that when people start stabbing each other because of sleights and swear words, something needs to be done even if that thing is only telling those involved to get a bloody grip.

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