Yesterday I got into a discussion/debate with a number of commenters about a recent post in which a woman shared correspondence between her and a man she met on Tinder. The man wrote her a detailed email explaining that whilst he very much liked her, he wasn't attracted to her body because it was fat. The woman responded to him in her blog in an angry message explaining why he could kiss her arse.
I think (believe, know) the woman had every right to respond with whichever words she chose to the man in question. What alarms me is that she chose to do it publicly.
The woman is not alone. Recently Em Rusciano, a columnist I greatly admire and like personally, published a column about an awful man on Tinder who body shamed a potential date. Again, the correspondence was shared.
And Em is also not alone. This is a huge trend in social media at the moment. When people receive private correspondence that they do not like, or find hurtful or abusive, they share it online. And I'm not stupid. I understand the reasoning. There is an intense desire to shame the person involved, to expose them for the nasty piece of work they are. And there is an empowerment in shaming someone who has hurt you. It feels good to get it out in the open, and receive approbation and affirmation from countless strangers.
But that doesn't make it right. I don't believe it is okay to share personal correspondence online.
For one thing, we all make mistakes. We all hurt people. No, we are not all arseholes, but even arseholes are not arseholes all the time. If you feel it is okay to shame someone else, then you have to be prepared to be shamed yourself. And how would you feel if your own personal correspondence was shared? If you were nasty to a lover, or friend, in an unwise, unguarded moment, and they shared your text or email with the entire world?
And if you answer "I wouldn't care, because I wouldn't do that, and if I did I would deserve it," then ask yourself carefully: have you really never written anything of which you have been ashamed? Have you really never made fun of someone behind their back, or shot off an angry text, or been cruel? Have you really never done anything to which someone else could take offence?
And even if you answer no, think about this. Do we want a world where people jump online every time they are disgruntled? Where we no longer deal with personal issues between ourselves, but take them into the public arena for the world to referee? We try to teach our children to work through their differences without running to their parents or teachers, and yet what are we teaching them by racing to the internet every time when we have a dispute with another person?
If a person offends you, deal with them. Tell them how you feel. And if they continue to upset you, block them. Delete their messages. When you block someone they don't exist anymore. They are gone. It is a very powerful tool.
And obviously if they are threatening or harassing you, go to the police. Take out a restraining order. Threaten them with legal action. If a person is dangerous, you're certainly not going to protect yourself by shaming them publicly.
There are undoubtedly some situations in which disclosure is in the best interests of the public, for example when they involve authority figures or criminal activities or threats to public safety. But to have 'running to social media' as the default position for issues between two individuals creates all sorts of problems. We will become a society in which the morality is held externally, in the Greek chorus of the online world. And we will lose our personal resilience, to be able to deal with interpersonal difficulties without the assistance and intervention of a thousand strangers.
I know most people will disagree with me. But you can also rest assured that any personal correspondence sent to me will remain private. And I bet that even those who disagree with me will find that