As we head into most people’s summer break, I thought I’d take a lighter view on one of the things that has troubled me in recent times.  That is the alarming responses social media seems to engender in seemingly rational human beings.

Medieval hysteria in a modern age- burn the witches

In our country’s medieval history, the same unnecessary, unfounded and often hysterical reactions were found in people’s belief in witches. 

These poor women (they were in the main female) who practised things seen as out of the norm for the time, were often hounded, vilified and sometimes executed.  You’ve probably heard the phrase “if she drowns then she is innocent, if she floats she’s guilty” which related to some of these victims being dunked in water as clear evidence of their witchery or not.  More often than not, accusations were hurled without any sane foundation, merely because someone had taken a dislike or hated the woman in question. Fear of the unknown, the different became a cry to burn the witches.

Do we still burn witches?

From our modern perspective we now look back at these times and wonder that anyone could have been so gullible or stupid to believe in these tales of nonsense.  Yet think about it, are some not doing and reacting the same when it comes to others social media posts?

I personally have a similar outlook on social media posting as I do about emails.   I stop and think before I post, I expect to receive the odd insensitive or nasty response and don’t take them to heart. I do not share anything too personal and I bear in mind that, whatever we might be told differently, once I have put something out online it is there forever and may very well come back to bite me in the future. 

As a reader/follower I have no particular interest in looking at pictures of what someone is having for their dinner nor is it essential for me to know if someone is out and about having a lovely time somewhere.  However, as a tool, I appreciate that social media is extremely useful.  It’s nice to know if a person I know or am acquainted with are happy and healthy or be able to communicate with them quickly and easily.  I must also admit that I quite enjoy seeing or hearing about other people’s experiences, even though they are strangers to me, in areas and arenas I am not part of or know nothing about.  It expands my knowledge base, and all adds up to an affirmation of human positivity in my eyes.

However, what then disheartens me is when I see negative comments and reactions posted in response. 

Hiding in cyber space demanding we burn the witches

What gives anyone the right to pour derision, scorn, hatefulness or pure evil into their comments? Would they ever dare to do so if they were facing their target face to face, toe to toe and in the flesh?  Does it make them feel powerful, good about themselves or have they some superiority gene that I know nothing about?  Do they not care that behind every posting is a living, breathing human being that can be affected by their cruel vitriolic response?

Having an opinion is fine; hounding those you disagree with is not. The same knee jerk reaction to the different, the same desire to burn the witches because you dislike them can be found in some social media commentary. When confronted with this cyber bile I want to remind them that good manners are the sign of a civilised human being. The general advice is “Do not feed the trolls”; in other words, ignore them.

In my opinion a good tenet to have (and I wish more people would remember it) is the adage I was always brought up with, that if you have nothing good to say then best keep it to yourself.