One of the most globally renowned figures ever to emerge from the bucolic environs of East Sheen, Sir Tim Berners Lee, has spoken out about the damage being done by his invention, the internet. Sir Tim, is a trusted voice and leading influencer. So when he says he believes we are at a tipping point where online abuse and bullying may overtake the positive side of the Worldwide Web, we should take notice. According to Sir Tim, the time for Government to act is now if we are to avoid a pandemic of hate. RiverTribe’s Wellbeing Correspondent, Vocal Tone, says the real answer is to understand how and why hate grows.
I don’t seek to upset, alienate or deride anybody, but there are people out there who will take exception to something I say and have an opposing view.
That’s fair enough. I can be pretty controversial. Opinion needs to be strongly held. I always stand by what I say or write. But hating me for it goes way too far…in my honest opinion.
Hate has become so ingrained in our everyday lives that we can’t escape it. A lot of it is bandied about from trolls and anonymous contributors on the internet and in social media.
When something vile and offensive can be written anonymously, without fear of being identified, it seems to dredge demons from deep within people’s psyches – stuff they wouldn’t dare say face-to-face on record or in public.
Sir Tim Berners Lee talks openly about his contribution to the world on the thirtieth anniversary of the internet, with grave concerns about where it could be taking us. According to Sir Tim, the first 15 years were largely positive. The next 15 will be a huge problem unless the Government acts now.
He cited the role of Cambridge Analytica as a landmark example of data being used illegally and invasively to manipulate people’s lives with its smart algorithms, bots and AI.
Fake news has hardly helped matters and Facebook has run campaigns expressing its own concerns and outlining what it will do to combat it. Taking down the BNP page of Tommy Robinson for its use of ‘hate speech’ is probably just a drop in the ocean of actions they will need to take.
When we see anger of epidemic proportions online, it eventually spills out into the real world. Jo Cox’s murder was a horrifying example of the tragic consequences that can manifest themselves on our streets. Politicians facing death threats and being harangued by bullying hecklers on the way into the Houses of Parliament is the outcome of hatred running amok online.
Is it any wonder mental health issues that were once way down the medical agenda have risen to the top to dominate news headlines, political debate, HR discussions in the workplace and socio-economic forums? Anxiety and depression have led to self-harm, social isolation and in an increasing number of suicides.
As a father, I have seen the effects of social media on the confidence of my three children and the impact on their daily lives. Knife crime will undoubtedly have its roots in hatred, whether between rival postcode gangs or the different factions in our communities. Their drill videos are there on the net spreading their provocative hate messages. The law can only do so much in tackling this lawless society. Parents, communities and authorities all have to work together, not blame each other.
As I’ve been writing this, the news came in from New Zealand of the terrorist atrocity that has happened in Christchurch. The reports of the gunman live streaming his hate-crime on the Internet whilst being urged on by viewers sickens me to my stomach.
Are we all powerless in the face of this tide of hate? No. In our actions and deeds we have to help turn it around.
When I suffered from clinical depression, I chose not to read or watch the news. There was very little I could do personally about terrible things happening and at the time I didn’t have the mental capacity to cope with anything that took me further along a long black tunnel.
I chose to watch comedies, read light-hearted books and only engage in things that lifted my spirits. It worked, and over time, with the help of the meds replenishing the serotonin levels in my brain, I had the fortitude to get back involved in the 24/7 tirade of worldwide tragedies and hostilities.
However, it taught me a valuable lesson in not getting too embroiled in the plight of the wider world, when I had my own problems to solve.
We can all take greater control of our reactions to the trials and tribulations that bombard us constantly.
Take a look at your own vernacular. Ask yourself where your intolerances come from? Are these issues something you really need to be so incensed about without doing anything proactive to alleviate them? Are you allowing what is said in the media to inflame your ire? I’m not saying bury your head in the sand, but just to get everything into perspective.
Don’t let your ability to love and be empathetic be buried under this avalanche of antagonistic hate-filled dialogue.
The world isn’t ending. There is always hope in any situation. Be compassionate, charitable and caring. On or offline, be more mindful of the power of your voice and the written word.
Sir Tim is right to be concerned where his legacy is taking us all, but in the words of another Knight of the Realm, Sir Paul McCartney, all you need is love and love is all you need.