Blogging, trolling and the art of petitions

It’s quite possible that the internet brings out the worst in us – from pontificating on personal blogs, to saying hurtful and spiteful things without fear of the consequences to people we’ve never met.

The recent furore about trolling on Twitter puts how vile people can be to one another in the full glare of the public eye. And glaring it certainly has been.

Being a well brought up lass, I’ve been appalled by the language and crudeness of some of the responses to what seem to me to be perfectly harmless comments and campaigns. When all’s said and done, if Jane Austen is finally to appear on an English banknote – well, fab. The vitriol occasioned by some fairly mild celebrations of the announcement was way beyond any reasonable response. And I can barely believe that threats of rape, bombs and death followed in what seemed a mob-like mentality. And, no sooner had the clamour died a little, when the death of a young woman who committed suicide allegedly because of bullying on the internet brought this type of behaviour back into sharper focus.

But – signing a petition is not the right response.

It seems to me to be passive, lacking responsibility in the same way that unpleasant Twitter users don’t seem to accept responsibility for their sexist and violent comments.

The threat of law may deter these idiots – but perhaps we simply encourage people to take less responsibility in this way. By creating laws, those who witness this kind of behaviour simply believe that someone ELSE will do something about it, and therefore they don’t need to. In the meantime, those who are bullying, unpleasant and downright vile simply create false identities, harangue other users and then disappear into the ether. Wherever there’s a law, there’s someone trying to evade it.

I strain sometimes to catch a glimpse of that rare creature, responsibility in both life and work. Responsibility is increasingly one of those things that belongs to someone else – the company, the Government or – as in the case of internet trolling – the Police.

But neither State nor employer can or should be expected to have the final say on everything. In the last ten years, nearly 4,000 pieces of legislation have found their way into law, on everything from mobile homes to defamation. A newspaper report I read noted that in 2010, 13.8 laws came into being every single working day.

Everyone has an opinion about what’s right and wrong – but very few are willing to do anything about it. Which is why, apparently, we need the laws. Someone needs to do something about it – “they”, probably. The law gives that framework, but at the same time, puts the responsibility into someone else’s hands – the police, the lawyers.

I believe we need to take action, to stand up, to not only voice objections, but get off our arses and do something. This something is not signing a petition, which I can do with little inconvenience and once done, absolves me of responsibility to anything else. This is too easy an option, and involves too little effort.

I’m conscious that writing this blog is another version of signing a petition, albeit with slightly more effort involved. So I have not only written this blog; I’m writing to my MP, and watching out for what I see as bullying on the internet and getting involved to point it out and stop it. I may not always get this right, but at least I am doing something.

If everyone did this, perhaps we won’t need to have so many laws.