Gemma Styles: Mess Up In Real Life And You Risk The Wrath Of Social Media
The Debrief: This week Sam Smith quit Twitter after the backlash over his Oscars speech. Because if you mess up IRL, don't expect social media to forgive you
Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Aside from an Oscar, this week's OOPS Award goes to Sam Smith after his Oscars acceptance speech, in which he reportedly claimed to be the first openly gay man to win one. This in fact wasn't the case - and weren't people keen to point it out. Before I go on I'd like to add in what he actually said...
'I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope that we can all stand together as equals one day. I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen, and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar. If this is the case, even if it isn't the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world.'
Now to my eyes - this is not the biggest crime in the world. He read something and remembered it, then used it to try and make a nice point at a time when it was relevant. It makes me sad to think that Sam Smith will probably remember the night he won an Oscar as the night that started a torrent of abuse from a bunch of strangers.
If you have a large social media following, or even if you don't, the fact is that having your thoughts published online can be a risky and dangerous game. There are a lot of people in this world and you're almost guaranteed to piss someone off at some point. Probably more than once. If you happen to have a lot of followers, or your tweet gets picked up by others to point at, you will experience a very specific and unusual kind of stress. The feeling of seeing notifications flood in and knowing that it's all people having a go at you and telling you you're a god awful excuse for a human being is more horrendous than you can understand unless it has happened to you. And this is putting it nicely - a lot of people don't stop at saying you're awful; they say they hope you experience violence, or that they're going to find you, or they wish illness and death on your family members.
And they think you're the bad person?
Yes it's good to know about the world around you. Yes it's good to educate yourself and others. But does being gay automatically mean Sam Smith has to dedicate a portion of his time to doing research on other gay people? Memorise the awards and achievements of every gay person in the industry? I don't think so. The man's just won an Oscar for crying out loud - he's not exactly been sat at home twiddling his new moustache.
At the end of the day, all you can do in this situation is apologise and try to move on. I've made the mistake myself - or at times not even necessarily a mistake, just something taken the wrong way - and it's really bloody stressful. But the fact is if you have made a mistake, accepted it and said sorry, and people still can't accept it... it's kind of theirs to carry on with. If they've never made a mistake in their lives then a pat on the back for them and a jolly well done - but I doubt that. Perhaps I'll get a backlash from even writing this. Sometimes it's hard to predict. All I can hope is that people take what I say in the spirit that it's meant - because that's pretty much all any of us can do!
The Internet has made it possible for us to learn more all the time and become more aware of the world around us. There are some people who know more about certain issues than others; I would like to think that these people will choose to criticise constructively and teach others kindly - rather than attacking us humans who sometimes make an error.
Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating