Condoning Criticism in the Age of Internet by Robin Trimingham
It was Shakespeare who first observed, “all the world’s a stage” in his play As You Like It. I wonder what he would have made of Twitter and other social media platforms?
Would he have written sonnets to be performed for Facebook Live, or contented himself with penning insults so insidiously clever that the receiver (“that damned and luxurious mountain goat”) might share them without realizing that they were being ridiculed?
Better yet, would the “goat” receiving these barbs be offended or flattered that “The” Shakespeare had noticed him to the point that he had turned his best quill (the one that was mightier than the sword) in his direction? Or would he instead have basked ever so briefly with pride in the stinging afterglow of this rebuke?
Let’s face it – spiteful words hurt. They hurt when they are projected in untimely and unfortunate combinations from your mouth; they hurt twice as much in print, and they hurt ten times as much online where even ten years from now a deft hand at keyword searching might reignite them.
Why then, do we continue to tolerate those who manage to weasel their way into places of influence for the purpose of dispensing harsh personal attacks on the unsuspecting under the gentile guise of having fun or “just offering helpful criticism”?
Does the fact that they have obtained a position of power inside a family unit, or an art group, or a social group give them the right to make negative judgements about the efforts of other people to stretch and improve themselves?
Is it ok for them to arbitrarily decide “what is good” or “who is worthy” or “what style is popular” and issue negative and unneeded criticism to anyone who dares to break with convention; supported by a crowd of leering anonymous henchmen who hit the share button as if this was an acceptable form of entertainment?
I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I know what Shakespeare would say: their “sin’s not accidental; but a trade”, for sharing hate is the same as initiating hate without exception.
So what can this teach us about living and getting along in a small insular community like Bermuda in the age of internet?
For starters, this is a wake-up call to everyone over the age of six who still imagines that they can get away with encouraging the bullying family members, co-workers, neighbours or social acquaintances or complete strangers online – your social media activity is a matter of public record too and participating in a targeted hate campaign can have serious consequences.
Law enforcement is already incorporating internet activity in the investigation of crimes. It’s only a matter of time before someone creates an app or an algorithm that publishes the names of everyone who abuses a person online. Do you really want to be most remembered as someone who cast stones at strangers for the fun of it?
By Robin Trimingham