Author: Tracey McAlpine

In a world where you can be anything, be kind

I’ve been planning a blog about social media. The good side of social media, and why it’s a wonderful way to meet friends over fifty. I’ve even recorded a video with the lovely Diane Kenwood, TheseAreTheHeydays, talking about how we met on Instagram and how much fun we’ve had using the App.

And then, this weekend’s news about Caroline Flack taking her own life has floored me. I can’t get her out of my mind and can’t imagine what this talented and beautiful woman went through before taking such drastic action.

Before I started Fighting Fifty, I had little, in fact no, interest in social media. Admittedly it was early days, but Facebook and Twitter were thriving. I joined Facebook purely to see photographs taken during the Nike Human Race in 2008. I thought it would be fun to see if I could spot Chris, my son, and me taking part. Of course, I couldn’t, there were thousands of people there. I didn’t use my profile, but over time, people found me, sent friends requests and asked why I didn’t have a profile photograph. I gave in and posted one but barely used the account.

In 2012 I launched Fighting Fifty and the only way to publicise the site for free was using social media. Twitter was at that time a great way of conveying a message and I built a group of friends on there who are still friends today. It was fun, and a great way to learn about other people’s businesses and products.

I still haven’t managed to get a conversation going on Facebook, but Instagram is different. Since joining the platform I’ve made many more friends. But I can’t help being aware of some of the negativity and harsh comments directed at people I know to be kind, considerate, honest and darn hardworking. It hurts. It hurts to see other people being hurt. It’s cruel and so unnecessary.

I’ve been lucky and only had some mildly offensive comments made on Twitter and YouTube. One person asked, if any of the products Nikki and I talked about worked, why were we so old and ugly. As another (kinder) subscriber replied, ‘who hurt you’. I wasn’t offended. If you put yourself out there, you have to expect comments like these. But I’m a tough old bird. Luckily, I’m not vulnerable or easily hurt. But what if I was, and cruel comments taunted me and drove me into depression.

Life is fragile, we all know this, and this weekend has proved it yet again. For all the good the media, and social media, can do, it can also do a lot of harm. It can be an open platform for anyone to say anything uncensored to anyone else. People I know have been trolled, insulted, hounded and deeply wounded by other people’s words. It has to stop. Social media is not an open battleground to be spiteful. Would the trolls be as happy to say such awful comments in person? I doubt it, it’s a coward’s game.

Many hashtags have appeared this weekend, #TakeNoFlack #Carolineslaw #EnoughIsEnough and #BeKind, for me this sums it up, just Be Kind. No one knows exactly what another person is going through. It’s so easy to only portray a positive image on social media when behind the scenes everything could be falling apart.

This morning I put the same image as this blog post onto Instagram. I wrote ‘No words, only sadness’, I immediately lost 5 followers, and more have left during the day. And I couldn’t be happier. If someone is offended by my post, then I am happy they won’t be looking at my account again.

My thoughts are with Caroline Flack’s family at such an unbelievably sad time.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind

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