“Personal responsibility” means taking responsibility for one’s actions, without expecting others to do it for you or blaming others for not doing it for you.
Over the last few weeks, the debate around social media, online media and indeed newspapers has revolved around responsibility. Who is responsible for the uncontrolled diatribes on social media and who has the responsibility to police them?
The debate has seen the Conference of European Rabbis, a client of mine, make a call to action at the Munich Security Conference for publishers to take responsibility and for Governments to enforce much stronger regulation; the founder of Facebook to confirm that if Governments imposed regulation, his company would accept it; and for Ash Sarkar, a self-described Communist, speaking on BBC’s Question Time a few weeks ago to lay blame at everyone but the Tweeters and unsurprisingly calling for more regulation and even Leveson II.
The tragic death of Caroline Flack last month has led her Tweet “In a world where you can be anything, be kind” to be on the lips and keyboards of thousands of people since then. The question is whose job is it to enforce these values.
In every walk of life, we have the same issues. In December last year, against all odds and predictions, led by Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party was swept to power with a huge majority, the likes of which has not been seen since the heady days of Tony Blair. “The Prime Minister is a racist”, screams some hitherto unknown keyboard warrior. “Oh yes he is!”, they all chime. And, the mainstream media follows the social media hate fest. Where is responsibility now? Where is the evidence? “It is words not action”, they bellow, ignoring any action that the Prime Minister has taken.
Both sides are equally guilty at getting caught up in top line platitudes without analysing the detail that often tells a very different story. Social media is designed to be quick and simple. People simply can’t be bothered to put together an in-depth, eight-part tweet that properly explains their position. Instead they would rather produce their own individual versions of click bait with headlines often based on unevidenced knee jerk opinions. One of social media’s real strengths is that it captures the moment, but it seems that literally thousands of people have no filter.
So, let’s return to personal responsibility.
Well, if only.
In the last few days, we have seen one of Twitter’s more controversial characters, known for pouring out unevidenced hate, calling for greater regulation of the media. After all, she says, tobacco companies are regulated. The implication is clear, no one should take responsibility for their actions or words? Smokers – smoke away until regulation prevents you. Tweeters – Tweet away until regulation prevents you.
Society will only heal when we take personal responsibility. We are responsible for our deeds and actions.
Tweeters – stop whipping up hate on Twitter, whilst waiting for someone to stop you.
Editors – stop blaming social media, whilst you publish unevidenced personal attacks.
My call? Personal responsibility. It means taking responsibility for one’s actions, without expecting others to do it for you or blaming others for not doing it for you.