Anti-Social Media –It’s not about YOU

Rhona McAuliffe's trading Snapchat for Jason Derulo after an all-in voyeurism binge. It's good to have her back.

Last night, I went for a forty minute walk and listened to Jason Derulo’s If I’m Lucky back-to-back. I think I played it ten times and I could not have been happier. I don’t care that he’s the MC Hammer of his generation, with extra abs, and is bet into cosmetically sculpted women; I just like the song. In about fifty more plays my ears will burn at the first guitar pluck and I won’t be able to see past Derulo’s choreographed crotch-grabbing. But that’s pop, right? You’re all in until you’re out.

Well, that’s me anyway. I go hard on something – a lavender hand sanitiser, every Icelandic TV drama ever subtitled, litres of a TK Maxx sulphate-free shampoo, a ritualistic face kneading to reverse aging – and then I bore myself with the sameness of life, step off and find a new obsession.

Snapchat’s the perfect example.

Hot off a stint of working from home, I first leapt into other people’s lives like a ravenous parasite hunting for a host. Week one was mind-blowing, an access-all-areas pass to the minutiae of being. There was a Mooncup trial, a tea-making tutorial, so many pissed nights out, a sex Q&A and a Chemo diary. I laughed, I cried and I learned things – the number of people treated for Syphilis in Ireland has doubled in the last ten years.

I am a hound for the detail, conspicuous for asking uncomfortable, personal questions. Apparently. So Snapchat is a virtual gift, you’re right in there between the cracks. I watch it like the friend I used to drag to stand-up gigs who would become so absorbed in the show she would shout-answer the comedian’s tightly timed rhetorical questions, not noticing that she was being aggressively blanked. There was an adorable dorkiness to her zeal and I’m honoured to pick up the mantle.

But, like any new toy, the razzle-dazzle eventually wears off and the searing monotony kicks in. The same gags are rolled out, the perpetual hangovers hint at bigger problems and the girl you thought was slaying in a man’s world is actually an unwatchable narcissist. Thus, by process of elimination, you carve out your tribe, un-following the ones you can’t get on with, pledging allegiance to the ones you love, in a non-predatory way.

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Simple. Keep the ones you like, axe the ones you don’t.

Once you’ve picked your people – in my case, a motley crew of random ledges I would never otherwise stumble across – you support them absolutely, warts and all. They’re not professionals, most of them are below the #spon radar, they’re just riding a moment, doing their best to engage a captive, growing audience as life ticks on. I follow people who are funny, who raise interesting personal and social issues, who are deep thinkers and strong personalities. They talk about period sex, the friend who shaved her own nipple off in the shower (a disastrous runaway razor) and snap the neighbour’s dog taking a daily dump in their front garden.

And although we’re all drawn to different characters, we do surely have one thing in common: we’re all there to be entertained.

What I don’t get is the judgy-ness, the snorty little trolls, high on bile, burning up the keyboard with septic take-downs. All of the snappers I follow have at some point been driven off-line by personal attacks. Claire Fullam, @claire.balding on Snapchat – who I’ve obsessed over in the November issue of IMAGE magazine – is one of the least likely to come under fire. She’s had a year from hell, losing 70% of her hair to Alopecia, and is still the funniest person I know (we’ve never met), with a few low days and lots of worldly wisdom bailed in. I defy anyone not to love her. And yet, she regularly fields toxic sniping.

Rosemary MacCabe, self-described rabble-rouser, has all but abandoned Snapchat for the negativity she was receiving, as well as a good pounding on Twitter. The final straw for her was finding two balloons tied to her front door calling her a ‘miserable auld bitch.’ Lyndsay Hamilton, Ireland’s Bad Gal Gwyneth Paltrow and co-host of the ItGalz podcast, is right now batting off vipers claiming to have slept with her ex. Even Snapchat’s golden boy, James Kavanagh, commemorated ‘his first negative fash critique’ by having it printed on a t-shirt.

The question is, why? From casual shade to blinding vitriol, why are some people compelled to hurt others?

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Is it because they see these Norms – real Snapchatters who are ‘just like us’ – blossom in the glow of overwhelming support and they can’t deal? That wan’s fierce into herself now, I’d better hack her down a peg or two or there’ll be hell to pay. Are they unbuckling their virtual belts so they can crack out twenty lashes, a seething network of Victorian Dads?

Maybe they’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed? A study conducted by Standford and Cornell universities in the US has identified a ‘spiral of negativity,’ proving that your mood impacts what you post online. The lower you feel, the more likely you are to discharge bile.

There’s also a counter-argument that haters may be artificially buoyed by a tonne of likes over on Instagram for a cracking #SaturdayBeLike post, jigging into Snapchat like the lost member of B*witched, ready to deliver some ‘truths.’

Whatever it is, it really should never be about you; or me. We are in control, we choose who to follow. It’s not up to us to police the content or annihilate the person who is brave enough to put themselves out there. They reflect our reality when no other media is really doing that. Well, not my reality, I’m the virtual blue-rinser, whooshing in on my mobility scooter, ‘hai, galz!’ But, you know what I mean.

The Snapchatters who are building their own tribes are successful because they have something special. They are uniquely themselves, they are vulnerable and they’re not afraid to speak their minds. We should be celebrating that not driving them underground.

So, for anyone flexing for a trolling today, here’s some Green Cross Code-inspired advice:

Stop. Put the phone down.
Look. Long and hard at your bad self.
Listen. To Jason Derulo’s If I’m Lucky, on repeat.

That’ll sort you out.

By Rhona McAulliffe

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