Think before you speak or tweet

GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people –Eleanor Roosevelt.

It’s a quote we should all stick to our electronic devices before taking to Facebook or Twitter – and indeed think about before opening our mouths.

But before you start scoffing about the fact I’m a journalist, and that you think we thrive on rumour and hearsay, read on.

Ethical journalists seek truth. We despise gossip and spend our days searching for the truth.

Those of us with any ounce of commitment to the industry code of ethics couldn’t care less about what is 'of interest' to the public, we only care about what is in the public interest. And there is a big difference.

What is ‘of interest’ is usually gossip and hearsay and sensational speculation. What is in the public interest is the truth.

But gossip or talk about individuals and their lives should never be of interest to anyone except those living it.

Wagging tongues are poison, and grapevines are harsh. It’s like the game of secret whispers – a story that starts with pink flowers in a crystal vase soon becomes one of blood-stained garments under broken glass with a long story about how they got there.

The truth is never shared accurately when the grapevine takes hold – and those feeding such poison have to stop and ask what are the benefits of feeding its growth?

Gossip and rumours have long caused heartache to many dealing with difficult circumstances – and even those dealing with normal life events that others seem to thrive on making more out of.

But add social media into the mix, and we have a powerful and dangerous tool for those who indulge in speculating about the lives of others. And indeed attacking them, often with little understanding.

Social media has given us licence to be cruel – to go beyond gossip and become faceless cowards who make comments we would never say to a person’s face. It’s given us licence to be cryptic with attacks, to suggest we know things (that we actually know very little about) and throw words into the universe that stay there .. lingering… regardless of any element of truth.

Wagging tongues have become wagging thumbs – quick to type words that have the potential to cause so much harm. The words are out there for all to see. Just like gossip – but permanently. And for those on the receiving end, it’s a constant reminder of how cruel people can be. 

Charlotte Dawson was a victim of nastiness and paid a heavy price.

Charlotte was battling an illness made so much worse by constant attacks from online trolls. They're the nasty people who like to make others miserable. The people who have little regard for how their actions impact on others. 

Whether it's online, or in person, talking about others, attacking them unnecessarily and constantly giving them reason to question themselves is just not on.

It’s simple – if it doesn’t affect you, why do you care?  Leave others be to live their lives. Goodness knows it's hard enough sometimes, without the interference and judgment of others.

Wagging tongues are poison, and grapevines are harsh.

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