You may have noticed the absence of the Irish Ladies Football Team story on Slugger the past week – it was deliberate.
It would only take me five mins to fire up a post that would be guaranteed to get probably 10,000 readers and would likely generate over 1,000 comments, but to what purpose?
A formula has developed around these stories. Someone says something stupid on social media, or someone does something stupid, and it is recorded and put on social media. Then depending on which side is doing the offending, the other side clutches its pearls and says how offended they are by this outrageous behaviour.
Then politicians start wading in and saying how shocked they are and disappointed. Then the mainstream media picks it up, and soon it’s the discussion on every talk show and front page.
At this point, whoever did the offending behaviour is usually contrite and says this has been a learning experience and they are truly sorry. A few weeks pass, and we then repeat the cycle all over again and again and again…
It is easy for people to justify their coverage by saying they are exposing sectarianism, but no matter have often sectarianism is exposed, it seems in no rush to disappear. Also, public shaming does not seem quite as effective as we imagine.
The binary nature of social media forces people to pick a side, there is no room for nuance. Either you are with us or against us.
We are stuck in a social media outrage loop that is doing us no good as a society.
Apart from the obvious point that these stories increase division and harden attitudes, they also suck up all political oxygen. “I am sorry I can’t deal with our imploding health service, someone has said something terrible on Twitter that I need to deal with it first…”
Politicians are comfortable with the sectarian stories, it is their familiar home ground. Ask a political what they would do to improve the health service or deal with the cost of the living crisis, and you will get a shrug of the shoulders, but ask them to comment on the latest social media spat, and they will talk for an hour about how shocked and saddened they are.
As I have said before, we did a fabulous job of hating each other before the internet ever came along, but I do think the grievance machine that is social media is having a pretty toxic effect on us all. We see the same battles repeated endlessly on social media – each side utterly convinced of their righteousness.
I am not saying we are perfect, and if Slugger has been quiet, I may not be able to resist firing up a quick post to fill the space, but I think we should at least be aware of the issue and question is all this performative? Does it just give us all the illusion that we are doing something without really doing anything?
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.