EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: There are positives in online friendships

SOCIAL media is full of bile and hate, comments that never used to make it outside a beer-fuelled pub argument jabbed in on a keyboard by people who have not penned a letter, bothered to object to anything whatsoever in the proper manner or put together a coherent argument in their lives. It’s also a home for decent people to reconnect, share news and catch up.

I’ve experienced both sides recently and it’s hard to make a case for either being the dominant factor.

Something appears in the paper that some people don’t agree with and those with nothing better to do are all over it with rude, abusive comments of, ooh, sometimes as much as six words long, made without having actually considered the facts. Others, of course, make valid points and you realise you might have got it wrong.

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Then you get a friend request from someone you haven’t heard from in years, decades even, and you make a decision — usually based on whether you actually liked this person in the first place — on whether or not to accept. The best option if you weren’t too keen is, of course, to click on their profile and have a look at what they’ve posted. You’re unlikely to be surprised. For example, someone receiving an unlikely friend request from myself would not be shocked to find themselves scrolling down a stream of pretentious tosh. Delete.

On the other hand, being a popular type (! (Exclamation mark used to emphasise what I hope anyone who has got this far took to be irony)), over the past years — well, three-and-a-half decades after leaving school, but then Facebook didn’t exist for around half that time — I have been friended by, gosh, at least a dozen people I knew back in the day.

I won’t name the ones I didn’t respond to, but they include a lad who once threatened to kill me having tied me up on the school fields. His profile pic is of him standing in front of the Union Flag and his posts mostly have racial undertones, sorry, overtones.

On the other hand, (a phrase comment writers struggling to fill their allocated space have traditionally employed to use up a few words) a few people I have recently connected with have inspired me.

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Gill Lambert (Wheeler as I knew her) is a published poet (she was always way better than me at English), which is pretty impressive and, judging by the tone of her posts, a principled individual. Dale Brockbank, one of my best friends at primary school, regularly posts comments which chime with my own opinions — confirming that we were right to pal up all those years ago. He recently commented in reply to one of Gill’s posts about Boris and his Downing Street shindigs: “Glad I resigned (from my job) without redundancy for refusing to do something illegal regarding PPE... before the pandemic. They are laughing in the face of my whole career.” Bang on Dale.

The definition of social media should really reflect a form of replacement for conversations you might have with your mates down the pub (now mates online) and yes, sometime arguments, conducted with civility.

The vile abuse often posted is more accurately anti-social. Or does it mirror what we have become as a nation?

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