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Letter: Majority of local social media users agree it is ripping society apart

Date published: 01 January 2018


Dear Editor,

Just a few days ago I read your article questioning whether social media is ‘ripping society apart’, an interesting argument put forward by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, and one which prompted much reader discussion.

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/114964/majority-of-local-social-media-users-agree-it-is-ripping-society-apart

Perhaps the underlying problem is that social media platforms let people speak with a feeling of reduced consequence, giving them confidence to make hurtful, opinionated or offensive comments about others at arms-length, which in many cases they would not say to their face.

I revisited the story today (Saturday 30/12/2017) after being told of a comment which Councillor John Blundell had posted on Christmas Day, ironically a day of peace and good will to all. The post was written about myself and my ward colleagues and refers to our Christmas greeting, saying: “It’s the ghosts of Christmas, put it on your mantle piece to keep the kids away from the fire.”  How rude!

On reflection, if my face has saved just one child from being burned in the fireplace whilst they check for the arrival of Santa this Christmas I am pleased to have provided a valuable service. Some may agree that I have a face that could make onions cry, but surely the same cannot be said of the gentlemanly Councillor Jim Gartside or the debonair Councillor Mike Holly. Fortunately, being politicians, we have developed skin thicker than a rhino’s rump, so this has not reduced any of us to tears.

Readers may believe that the insult was a feeble attempt at satirical Yuletide wit. Perhaps it is because his girlfriend was recently selected as the latest Labour hopeful and they are looking for pre-election publicity. Who knows, but whatever the reasons his comment still serves as thought provoking fodder for the original article.

I am sure that there will be parents and teachers reading this letter who understand the implications of this sort of social media comment and the fallout they can cause. Every year there are hundreds of similar instances across our schools where offensive remarks are made over social media by one young person about another. Sometimes these comments are made in jest, other times they are carefully considered, either way the person on the receiving end may be less capable to deal with the public ridicule than we are. Teachers, parents and third-party services spend hours dealing with the social and emotional consequences.

Councillor Blundell has just been appointed to a senior position within the Rochdale Borough Council Cabinet. He takes the place of an experienced predecessor who might have known better. He is being championed by the new Council Leader as part of a move to place their youngest councillors in the highest ranking of council roles. Perhaps then he needs to learn that with such responsibility comes an expectation of professionalism. Moreover, if he is to be taken seriously as an inspiration to the youth should he perhaps set a better example.

Now, to be fair, I am not easily offended, and Councillor Blundell is going to have to try significantly harder if he wishes to deprive me of any sleep; for me, like many parents, sleep is a rare commodity.

If his intention was cutting witticism I give him four out of 10 for effort and suggest a trip to one of our excellent libraries to reference the works of Oscar Wilde, from whom he could learn a great deal.

Alternatively, if his aim was offensive satire he could try looking up Frankie Boyle.

Maybe there is a positive that we can take from this, maybe we can all learn from his comment that Councillor Blundell was not being big, he was not being clever, and if you would not say it to someone’s face you probably should not be posting it on social media.

Yours,

Councillor Peter Winkler

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.


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