Some weeks ago I unfollowed the footballer Saido Berahino on Twitter. This occurred after what I perceived to be a taunting tweet he’d posted about the victory of his current club over his old one, a victory in which he played no part.

It impacted upon me because his old club is the one that I support and I felt that he owes them some respect for giving him a platform for his talents and nurturing them to the point where he was an England international and a transfer target, something that has undoubtedly enriched him. C’est la vie as they say in non-footballing circles. I’d forgotten that I was following him at all since I am interested in very few footballers, their opinions likely to be witless, meaningless and ‘on brand’ to the point of tedium.
Last week I was tempted to troll him with taunts of my own. This occurred after his current club were beaten by a lower league team in the FA Cup, a defeat in which he did play a part – at least arguably since he was on the pitch.

I managed to restrain myself but still felt the pangs of shame for even contemplating such an act. Likelihood is that he’d never have read it and that my opinion is of no consequence to him, that’s certainly how I feel my opinion is rated by most Twitter users. Still, I knew it and expect better.

On reflection I am angry that social media has led us to this point, one where we are all potential trolls and angry spittle-flecked ranting idiots screaming into the void.  Was this really its intended purpose or just the foreseeable and inevitable consequence of giving a public platform to everyone?

For those of us who enjoy ridiculing respected (and particularly elected) individuals, where do we draw the line? At what point does acceptable mockery become offensive abuse? For me it is probably when it is unnecessary and that you have a reasonable chance that the recipient of that post will see it.
On the flipside is mocking someone who is unlikely to see it a bit pointless? Is that mockery – extended on a platform where they could see it if you tagged them – a bit cowardly if you don’t actually tag them? It is probably spineless either way.

These are the moral arguments of our times. Many of us have our own moral guidelines and an awareness of when we’ve breached them. In these times of instant and public communication it is perhaps wisest to pause prior to posting, taking a step back in the heat of the moment has always been advisable.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash