Martine Rolls: People hiding behind social media

By Martine Rolls

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Lorde is impressing around the world.
Lorde is impressing around the world.

I'm impressed with this girl Lorde, also known as Ella Yelich-O'Connor, from Auckland's North Shore.

She's not yet 17 and she's already taken the United States by storm, sealing the number one spot on Billboard's Hot 100 list with her song Royals.

Although I had heard the song on the radio before not knowing who the singer was, I found out about her when she passed by Katy Perry's Roar and Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball and hit the No1 spot last week.

But what really caught my eye was the fact that she was attacked on Twitter by Miley Cyrus fans for her success.

Lorde tweeted: "#1 on US iTunes. Even if it lasts an hour I feel HAPPY. Downside is all these Miley fans telling me they're gonna stab my rotting corpse."

Some of the tweets from Miley fans were rather nasty, like @wethinkmiley who said: "@lordemusic kill yourself you crusty old hag".

@MileyCyrus, who has had to deal with a fair bit of criticism herself lately, jumped on Twitter in Lorde's defence tweeting: "@lordemusic why r people so mean??? Ps your music is awesome".

The young singer-songwriter from Auckland simply shrugged it off as "one of those weird things that comes along with the internet".

Thick-skinned is one of those things you need to be when you become famous.

People feel brave when they are sitting behind their computer screens or when they are playing with their smart phones using a social media account they've set up anonymously, or when they leave comments on forums or news websites.

Website PopularScience.com decided last week that it will no longer accept comments on new articles. It said: "As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter."

In my previous role as the online editor for bayofplentytimes.co.nz there were days I felt that comment moderation alone could be a fulltime job. Not everyone knows that there is actually a person or a team behind a website whose task it is to monitor, edit and moderate things as well as reply and answer questions.

Like PopularScience.com states, healthy debate is a good thing but somewhere, you've simply got to draw the line. The statement made public by Suzanne LaBarre, the online content director of Popular Science, was backed up by recent research and said: "It is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters. But even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story."

SPEAKING of shutdowns, I am trying very hard to make sense of the shutdown of the US Government. It's the first US government shutdown in nearly two decades and even though I understand a government can go through crisis, and a cabinet can fall, how on earth can a government shut down? Am I the only one that doesn't get it?

I believe it has something to do with healthcare reform, spending cuts, Republicans and Democrats disagreeing, and that money has run out.

Government-funded bodies seen as doing urgent work have been kept at full strength, but the Pentagon was due to stand down almost half of its 800,000 civilian employees. Call me stupid if you like, but I still don't get it.

Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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