Is it just me, or are people getting ruder?
Perhaps it’s just a sign of my approaching decrepitude that we seem to be a more brusque, less polite society than 20 years ago. I may be developing a pair of rose tinted spectacles, in the same way that youngsters respected their elders, politicians knew what they were doing (insert your own Brexit comment here) and that pop music was good. Although as someone who lived through the horror that was Stock, Aitken and Waterman in the 80s, I beg to differ on that one.
As a northern European coming to Andalucía for the first time it can be something of a shock when you overhear your first conversation in Spanish. The dialogue is so loud and frenetic that you assume that everyone is arguing and you expect the first punch to be thrown at any second. The healthy sprinkling of swearing in any Andaluz conversation, dropping the c-bomb in as a matter of course, would also seem to be a certain prelude to impending violence. Use that particular noun in the UK and you’d probably end up in Accident and Emergency.
But that is all part and parcel of living in Spain. Nobody takes offense, although that might have something to do with the fact that it’s in the real world.
Online, however, things are slightly different…
Yes, I am well aware that the Internet has been a largely brilliant and benign invention that had brought people together, allowed family and friends to catch up with news and generally ‘spread the love’.
On the downside, however, it has also allowed small but vocal minority to become keyboard warriors, firing off inflammatory posts indiscriminately. In the Kevin Costner baseball movie ‘Field of Dreams’ there is the classic line ‘If you build it they will come’. The same type of logic applies to posting anything vaguely controversial on social media. It’s much easier to be rude to people if your are safely behind a computer screen.
Luckily as a hard-bitten hack I’m fairly used to being called a witless moron on a regular basis. And that’s just from friends and family. But to those who didn’t have the pleasure of working on the national newspaper in the glory days, where things tended to get out of hand on a regular basis – I received a well aimed mini football on the back of the head on my first subbing stint on The Mirror, which came sailing over from the Sports Desk – having your parentage called into question can be a deeply upsetting experience.
So please, whatever your views on Trump, Brexit or Podemos, next time you feel the urge to savage someone online, do what I do, in all situations, and ask yourself the immortal question
“What would David Niven do?”