The lead story in yesterday's Hawke's Bay Today was certainly one for our technology driven, and, on this occasion, flawed age.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton quit Facebook and called his online tormentors "idiots" and "brainless".

His sign-off came in the form of a Facebook post announcing he was leaving the social media site because of the barrage of abusive comments directed at him and his family.
Dalton said the distasteful comments reduced his wife, Shirley, to tears.

Many will argue online criticism comes with the territory of being a public figure.
But, it must be said, criticism and abuse are very different.


There is an awful culture of online trolling. One in three adult New Zealanders reported in the past year they had received comments deemed abusive and unwanted.

For a long time there was no way to combat such abuse, until the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

The purpose of the act is to deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.

Bill Dalton's position as mayor naturally means the opinions he holds and decisions he makes will garner plenty of attention and stir much debate.

But not like this, surely?

Like anyone who is remotely tech savvy, I have witnessed public figures in the region receive abuse on closed group Facebook pages. And it very quickly escalates into one-upmanship.

But where does this aggressive keyboard warrior behaviour come from? It's everywhere and expletive-laden insults are dished out on whim.

It shows a frightening lack of empathy and respect that seems to stem from looking at a screen rather than the face of the victim.

Can you imagine these insults being traded in everyday life? Negotiating your trundler through a busy supermarket or perusing the shelf at a bookshop while being hounded by those around you with personal insults?

It's an ignorant and cowardly way to air one's opinions, and hopefully one we can grow out of very soon.