Tarnya Davis: Just plain mean

Thursday, 13. June 2019

Tarnya Davis: It seems the loudest voice of social media is critical and negative. For years, I have delivered this column in the old-fashioned way – written word on newspaper, delivered to your door.
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At the recent invitation of the Herald I gave Facebook video messaging a try as another means of communication.

I had hoped to be able to share some ideas with more audience, but treading into social media was a new experience and the depth of insults and criticism thrown around on the net was well beyond that which one might experience in any realm of “real life”.

Thankfully.

Journalist Jon Ronsan in his book So you’ve Been Publicly Shamed talks of the experience of the victims of bullying on the internet.The victims in his book may have made a small error, like a bad joke, or a silly comment and then were pursued by an angry mob who attacked them with fury and indignation.

The impact upon the victims was consistently devastating and the punishment was well beyond the mistake they had made.Some moved towns, had to leave their jobs and some didn’t work again.The punishment of public humiliation did not fit the crime.

Monica Lewinsky was perhaps the first ever person trolled by the internet when her affair with then US President Bill Clinton was discovered at the same time people were discovering the voice of global media. In her TED talk she explains how she feared she would die of shame.

It seems the loudest voice of social media is critical and negative and there are “trolls” who enjoy being cruel for the sake of it, with no boundary too low.

There are those who attempt to argue with the negativity, but there are many others who perhaps are frightened to comment should they too become victims.

And so the power of the undercurrent grows.

I am grateful I am able to choose to step away for the moment, but I am reminded of those who can’t step away from abuse and also of those whose experience of shame they are unable to escape, such as those who are victims of childhood abuse.

As Ronsan says, social media has moved from a place of curiosity to one of cold hard judgement, like an angry virtual lynch mob.

Social media isn’t going away and so we need to come up with a safer way for us all to live with it.

Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists. Her book of columns, All Things Considered, is sold at theherald南京夜网419论坛

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