THE internet really is a marvellous invention.
I love how easy it is to keep in touch with old friends, who I otherwise might have lost touch with.
I love that I can share photos with family with just a few clicks of a button.
And I especially love how quickly I can find the answer to almost any question (and this is particularly useful during difficult pub quizzes as I am both very competitive and not averse to cheating).
But one negative consequence of such a vast and anonymous network is that people use it to be downright nasty to others.
Forget armchair politicians – these days it’s the so-called keyboard warrior you need to be afraid of.
These are the people determined to ram their opinions (often no more than expletive-filled rants) down the throats of others.
It’s a schoolyard fight being waged with nothing more than a smart phone, an overactive left thumb and a staggering amount of anger.
And these people are everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, photo-sharing sites and even message boards – waiting to strike if you so much as put an apostrophe out of place.
I’ve seen it first hand, with celebrities often falling prey to insults about anything from their weight or looks to their talent.
The more extreme version of this kind of behaviour – trolling – has even made the news in recent years, as people have been driven to despair (and, in some cases, suicide) by the words of complete strangers, who are protected by their living rooms and anonymous usernames.
I had a very small taste of this kind of aggression this week after posting a link to this very column on social media.
‘Constructive criticism’ it was not – and before I knew it I’d been treated to a barrage of four letter words topped off with a lovely round of name-calling.
Sadly I don’t have the answer to this particular problem, although it is heartening to know the justice system is beginning to catch up.
However, the whole thing clearly needs further debate.
Let’s keep it friendly though, shall we?
Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on July 23, 2015