OPINION

Facing the thin line between fact and fiction

Trolling: Social media has its obvious benefits, but it also has a darker and dangerous side.
Trolling: Social media has its obvious benefits, but it also has a darker and dangerous side.

In 2003 Rolling Stone reported that a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg had just been jilted by a girl, and while looking at pictures of university students he judged to be 'horrendous' he wanted to put these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive. An inglorious origin, and for many, not much has changed.

Is social media fact or fiction? My current profile picture on Facebook is four years old. I don't look like that anymore; I've grown. Not in a good way.

But it's still me in the picture, it hasn't been Photoshopped so, I'm not lying, am I?

Elle McPherson said that in a shoot of 600 photos they only take one of her that's any good, so I'm only one photo behind a supermodel!

Edit Profile? Ah, no thanks! I'm going classic, not contemporary. Now for the status update. Arghhhh! The dreaded status update!

"Tell us what you're thinking," Facebook asks. That's not always a good idea mate.

Then Twitter doubles the allowable character count so we can rant twice as long.

So I consider sharing my deepest, most brutally honest musings with a world I hope will not judge me:

"I just pulled some lint out of my belly button. Why is the lint in my belly button white when everything I wear is black?... Look at these shoes... I need new shoes... well, a new left shoe anyway because that thing is falling apart... I wonder if I can buy just one shoe?

I don't want to ask at the shop because I'll sound like a right twit... Still, if they say 'yes' they'll probably only charge me for one shoe. Half price... Why have I never got any money? I feel like a failure. I feel fat. But I also feel like some KFC."

Of course, these thoughts are way too embarrassing, random and boring for me to ever actually share with another living soul.

So, I wait until I'm at my best and share the good times: "At The G, watching Collingwood and hangin with my main man Eddie McGuire.

Life is good." Of course, I'd hate to know Eddie McGuire's internal status update while all this is going on: "At The G and some crazy priest won't leave me alone. The !@$# I have to put up with to keep this job."

Some people call Facebook "Fake Book". I see their point, and so many of us - myself included - keep up appearances. But so is wearing nice clothes and brushing our hair, so is that fake too?

Social media has brought us and kept us all in touch with so many family, friends and potential friends that it is clearly a massive blessing to the modern world.

Add to all this its ability to expose and thus prevent corruption.

But is not social media also a curse? How did Facebook begin?

As reported in Rolling Stone magazine, in 2003 a drunken 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg had just been jilted by a girl, and while looking at pictures of university students he judged to be "horrendous" he wanted to put these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.

An inglorious origin, and for many, not much has changed.

We were reminded of this reality last week after the apparent suicide of 21-year-old Wilson Gavin.

Mr Gavin was relentlessly trolled on social media in response to his protest the day before at a Brisbane public library in response to government-funded drag queens reading stories to small children.

After his death, the hate speech - that included threats and pleadings that Wilson Gavin should kill himself - was deleted and people from both sides of the debate expressed sadness at the tragedy of his death.

This would indicate to me that the people involved with the online bullying either did not want to stand behind what they said or did not mean the threats they made to him online.

Was it all just fiction?

But fiction that has lead to the horrible reality of Wilson Gavin's death.

Before the bodies stack up even higher, we would do well to reflect of the thoughts of writer Aldous Huxley - a real-life genius and widely acknowledged as one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th Century:

"It's a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other."