The internet masks true identities. Companies use it to present a honed, targeted and user-friendly brand image. Celebrities attempt to show their “other sides” to the general public, while the great mass of Twitter users vent their frustration or anger on the micro-blogging site, or merely speculate on the issues of the day.
Yet Twitter also provides a shield for cruelty, hate and genuine abuse, the type of which would not be long tolerated in the street, on the Tube, or at any social gathering. Today, Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield failed to bring home the gold medal (or indeed silver or bronze) for Team GB that many had hoped they would. The pair dived excellently in their opening three attempts, and were leading the table before a disastrous fourth dive condemned them to exactly that position.
Despite this disappointment, it must be added that Team GB has only won two medals so far, and neither of these has been gold. Tom Daley, meanwhile, enjoyed an exceptional 2008 Beijing Olympics and is undoubtedly a leading British athlete, and hugely talented diver. Sadly, this isn’t enough for some people.
Daley’s father Robert passed away last year due to a brain tumour. His tragic, untimely death was unquestionably difficult for his son to bear, and the poignant scene in which Daley’s father asks him to come over and see him after his triumph in China four years ago would bring a lump to the throat of even the most passive, emotionally stunted observer.
Some, however, choose malice and attention seeking as their way to carve out a niche in this world, and hide behind their computer screens. In this case, it was venomous user @Rileyy_69 who sent Daley several tweets, all laced with abuse, including one particularly disgraceful message, which was re-tweeted on Daley’s page by the diver.
It read: “you let your dad down i hope you know that.” Disgusting, insensitive, outrageous and utterly unacceptable. Fair enough, we live in a free country, and free speech is something that I would never attack as a concept. However, this user is cowardly and ought to face up to the true value of his words. @Rileyy_69 has now hidden his profile to anyone except verified followers, while a Twitter-wide campaign has begun to have the user banned from the site. It remains to be seen what the social networking giant will make of the arguments in favour of a ban, but this episode has truly shown the potential of the internet to mask lowly, skulking cowards such as @Rileyy_69.
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