Online threats only end up scuppering your case

Paul Hutchings, project manager at John Pounds, at the launch of Street Support

Street Support brings people together with common goal

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The rise of social media has proved to be a mixed blessing – at its best it’s a revolutionary and empowering communication tool; at its worst, it’s little short of a venue for bullies to meet bullies in order to do some bullying.

It only reflects human nature, but the anonymity it affords, and the ease that it provides, means that many things are said that would not be during done a face-to-face conversation.

So it’s a sad inevitability that the debate over opening up bus lanes in Portsmouth has, as we report today, descended into threats and abuse. It’s all a little demeaning.

Firstly, let it be made clear that we’re not tarring all cabbies and private hire drivers with the same brush we’d use for the imbeciles behind the threats. As we’ve said before, we don’t judge all drivers by the tailgating actions of the minority, nor all cyclists by the bike light-free decisions of a few.

But by being unable to type a few words online without threatening to ‘run cyclists off the road’, some oafs will have already, justifiably, in the minds of many readers, lost the argument on the change coming in. If that’s their attitude, then of course private hire drivers should not be allowed into bus lanes will be the thought.

How refreshing it would be to see an online debate that did not descend into abuse and macho threats. To see one where keyboard warriors ‘fought’ with their arguments, not with threats.

Because there is no doubt that social media does provide a great way to exchange ideas. For example, turn to our Agenda feature today about Twitter.

We have some reservations about the extent to which councillors tweet during meetings, in Portsmouth as it would seem to be impossible to do that while concentrating fully. Let us hope that no important decisions can be skewed by the distraction of an iPad or smartphone. While we don’t want government by Twitter, if it makes people alive to what is happening, and how decisions are made, then great.

It’s an old-fashioned sentiment, but common decency goes a long way. Let us debate online, but let us remain classy.

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