Online abuse. The de rigeur occupational hazard for journalists and broadcasters.
It affects those in such professions in different ways. Some respond to such abuse with direct confrontation that can dangerously escalate, some attempt reasoned argument with their tormentor, others feign indifference all the while compounding their insecurities, and a few simply wither on the vine. Many just plough on regardless.
It’s fair to say that 99% of said abuse comes from people that you shall almost certainly never meet in your entire life. As such, they cannot hurt you-they surely cannot be perceived as a threat. But in this era of easy access to the ear of radio & TV station bosses through their online presence, campaigns can easily be whipped up on behalf of a few systematic abusers, directed solely at those in power with the express purpose of costing someone their job.
Sometimes, though, the abuse comes from closer to home – from people who you know that you previously thought were at the very least ambivalent towards what you do, if not even mildly supportive.
I elected to deactivate my Facebook profile last week, following an alert from several (genuine) friends to a conversation between 2 former bandmates on an open conversation feed that was not only incredibly brutal and disrespectful towards myself, but also towards other people in my life whom I care about. I read the screenshots that had been sent to me, and within seconds had decided that I wanted no more of the site in my life and pressed the ‘deactivate’ switch.
Maybe that was hasty of me; perhaps you might say it was an over-reaction. But I was never going to join in the conversation and in turn look no better than them – and nor could I just leave it or send a wishy-washy complaint to moderators. Yeah, that always works…
In a way, especially when it comes to Facebook, receiving abuse is a direct result of one allowing too many unknown people (listeners, rock music fans, football fans) to be my ‘friend’. The genie was out of the bottle pretty soon in that respect, and I have no-one to blame but myself for being too free and easy in terms of who I accepted and who I didn’t.
And yet, this particular instance that made me act was down to 2 blokes who I’ve shared many a stage with. I might have called them genuine ‘friends’ at one point. But no more.
I simply cannot fathom what anyone gets out of systematic or concentrated abuse towards anyone or what prompts such behavioural traits. I’ve had my opinions on many many work colleagues (both in radio or beforehand in my retail or even banking days) but if they were negative ones I worked on the maxim ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’.
You can’t always hold yourself to such a maxim 100% of the time, but by and large I’m a diplomatic soul and keep any negativity over my peers firmly to myself. It was suggested to me that the abusers that persist and endure are from a younger generation than myself - a generation desensitized to the vagaries of social media and online message boards. That may have a grain of truth, and future generations will probably bare that notion out more and more, but those who sought to abuse me were most definitely from my generation and no more technically savvy than I am, necessarily.
So, age is no barrier to venting your spleen – I remember Dave Lee Roth once remarked on his relationship with Eddie Van Halen during the early 80’s “Here’s a man who isn’t happy unless he’s unhappy”. I think that sums up the Facebook hoards in general quite nicely.
I may yet reactivate my account, I haven’t decided. But if I ever do – and it’s been nearly 2 weeks and I’m not missing it as much as I’d suspected – it’ll be on different terms…ones where I’m not so trusting of those I don’t know and – incredibly - even those I do. Or thought I did.