This week two occurrences have been 'shared' within my Facebook network, with spectacularly different results. The first was the impassioned posting of my cousin Karen after discovering that her husband of many years had been caught out screwing around. It is quite natural, when faced with such an act of outright betrayal by the man who was her lover, life partner and single most important object in her life, that Karen should spontaneously and perfectly naturally express her outrage and sorrow in any and all ways available to her. This happened to include a Facebook post within which she called out not only her husband but the 'other woman' in question. Just as this posting was a fairly natural and obvious move for someone so offended there is a natural inclination amongst others to think that such a public outpouring of emotion may lead to further complications as, after all, common sense suggests that cooler heads should prevail. What is most surprising however is the extent to which our sensitivity to actual human feelings can be severely impaired by the simple fact that we are conversing via a screen and keyboard. To cut a long story short the comments that followed rapidly became a flame war regarding the meaning of friendship and the inappropriate or otherwise nature of the original post. Worse it devolved into a competition to establish the degree to which protecting and sticking up for friends on both sides of the argument can be camouflaged as mock outrage and offence. Surprisingly many of the most 'offended' keyboard warriors descended to issuing warnings to Karen that the thread should be closed. Perhaps unsurprisingly it took not too much longer for someone to use the word 'cunt', sadly not in an entertaining way, but in a grunting arsehole way.
What does this experience teach Karen, or anybody else involved?
It would be too easy to make observations regarding the detached insensitivity of the text medium. What is obvious however is the tendency of people with only a minor stake in proceedings to escalate their emotional involvement and claim ever greater degrees of outrage to the point where their offended ego utterly unbalances their perception of the original incident: a married woman finding that her beloved husband has betrayed her and rendered everything she held to be paramount utterly meaningless. Nice work dickheads.
The second headline Facebook happening this week was the breaking news of a tragic occurrence in Thailand.
Adam Pickles, a young Englishman working as a teacher, was attacked by a fellow westerner with a crowbar. In common parlance his head was smashed in. He remains unconcious and on life support in a Thai hospital. Adam attended Hull University along with an old friend of mine. I know him only sparingly, having attended some of the same parties and soirees back in those heady days. I know him only as a warm, personable, funny and widely loved individual. The original post, on a group page specifically dedicated to making people aware of Adam's predicament, described the terrible situation in brief but heart breaking detail and within 24 hours there was such an outpouring of messages of love and support that the group had swollen in size to over 1000 and over 4000 a couple of days later. The response has been nothing but positive and has restored my faith in the value of social media.
The following is Neil's original post: