The Royal Family shouldn’t bother with social media - I don’t
- Credit: PA
James Marston says there's a very easy way to avoid being trolled...
It's no secret I haven't much time for social media.
Facebook, Instagram, boast-a-lot... whatever, all seem to me to be narcissistic at best. It confuses me why people put the most intimate and personal aspects of their lives on the internet. Why do people show themselves getting married or with a new baby still flush with the exertion of childbirth? Why do people feel the need to share their holidays and experiences, purchases and triumphs? It used to be called showing off.
But there's no modesty anyway these days is there? It's a forgotten virtue like patience, fortitude, discretion and hard work.
I'm generalising I know but, that aside, I've only ever had what could loosely be described as hate mail once in my journalistic career and that was because I criticised my mother's cooking – something which many readers took issue with, perhaps understandably, and weren't slow in coming forward to tell me that that sort of criticism is unacceptable. To be honest they were right, and I learnt my lesson, I never repeated the same mistake.
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I'm not on social media – unless you include looking at the weather – and I've never been trolled.
Not so long ago trolling was something to do with fishing, these days, according to the dictionary is 'the deliberate act of making random unsolicited and/or controversial comments on various internet forums with the intent to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument.'
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Apparently to be trolled is an unpleasant and awful experience - I quite believe it is and another reason not to indulge in social media – and the Royal Family are putting a stop to it.
I say putting a stop to it, they've announced that the family's various social media accounts have to follow new rules that mean comments posted by others must not 'contain spam, be defamatory of any person, deceive others, be obscene, offensive, threatening, abusive, hateful, inflammatory or promote sexually explicit material or violence', nor must they 'promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age'.
In addition, the guidelines say: 'We reserve the right to hide or delete comments made on our channels, as well as block users who do not follow these guidelines. We also reserve the right to send any comments we deem appropriate to law enforcement authorities.'
According to some reports this has all come about because is a surge in abuse at the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex.
It might seem at first glance to be a sensible move, to protect these women and to kerb that sort of behaviour. Indeed I have some sympathy for these two ladies, and I don't like internet trolling at all either.
However, there is a wider observation, and it is that shutting down conversation and comments – however unpleasant and uncomfortable – should be done with careful thought. Not least, perhaps, for the Royals. I have an admittedly small concern that any precedent set, such as stopping internet abuse, though an eminently understandable reaction, may set a precedent whereby criticism itself is eventually thwarted. Who decides what is offensive? At what point is something offensive something someone needs to hear?
Not listening to criticism – even if we find it offensive at the time – for any of us, is a dangerous thing. The younger Royals, I wonder, may yet need to learn this lesson, that to retain the loyalty of millions they must not be above critical scrutiny, they must hear the things they don't want to hear, they must not always get their own way, and indeed none of us must. There are ways to criticise and internet trolling isn't one of them, but the point still stands. The Queen, of course, knows this and in one of the most memorable speeches of her reign, as she thanked millions for their loyalty, said so: 'There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution – City, Monarchy, whatever – should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don't.'