THE INTERNET, MY DAY AND A YOUNG WOMAN CALLED HETTY.

Recently I have been thinking more and more about the influence the Internet has on my life. It seems that day after day, my life is becoming even more reliant on – and intertwined with – the world wide web and the myriad of social media sites, news outlets and online libraries that I spend time trawling through day after day.

I use my laptop for work every single day. Powering up at about 8.00am, plugging in my hard drive and often opening Final Cut Pro X. I check my email, deleting the junk (but not unsubscribing) and I set out my great plan for the day. I check Facebook, like a few photos; leave comments on the ones that genuinely make me feel something, then hop over to Twitter. I am reminded of both the excellent and dreadful individuals that reside in the same world as me. I might post a photo to Insta with a hashtag that automatically adds my post to a series, that sits somewhere and is curated by everyone and no-one at the same time.

After that, I collect the laundry, set it on to quickwash and race to get a shower and dressed, before the cycle has finished. I barely ever make it, but am usually sorted by the time the 2nd spin cycle has ended. The washing machine has one of those functions where you can link it to your android device and control it remotely. But I have never used it. It also lets out a joyful tune when it’s finished. The machine is new enough for me to still find delight in this sound and I wonder how long this will last.

I WhatsApp Mum, ask how she is today and ask for an update on the rest of the clan. She WhatsApps back and we exchange a few heart and silly face emojis. This continues at intervals throughout the day. The next best thing to starting my day with a chat and a cup of tea with her is pinging thoughts back and forth out in the ether.

By 9am, I am (usually) at my desk and I am either watching film material and editing away, reading or writing plans.  Four hours pass and I wonder how the heck that happened. So many pauses, waiting for my mac to cool down or for the colour wheel of doom to stop spinning. Progress has been made, but it doesn’t feel like much. Meanwhile wetransfer is also whirring away in the background as I wing files over to collaborators. My online and offline worlds often blurring throughout the day.

I think about lunch and then get back to Twitter. I see that someone has retweeted a picture, originally posted by a young woman called Hetty. The image is of a bunch of what looks like workmen, queuing in Maccies, with the caption “These guys look like they got one GCSE” attached. The quoted retweet consists of two parts, firstly the post mentioned above and next to it an image of Hetty with an angry response plastered over her face, by an agitated tweeter taking a stand for the unknowing blokes in the first picture. Was this Karma? Did the girl deserve this personal bite back? I am in two minds, thinking this sort of retaliation is deserved, as it is of equal weight to the first wrong doing, but then I am also aware that fighting fire with fire, usually makes more fire. Then I notice, loads of other angry comments. The weight is now very unbalanced. Surely people must be having the same thoughts as me? Nope, the post has triggered a wave of lava hot responses. A heatwave of prickly points, aimed right at the perpetrator. Yes, this does mean that I think Hetty made a mistake when she shared that post. But, I feel the severity of the backlash in a way might be even more damaging than the original offence?

I check my emails and make myself some avocado toast for lunch, feeling a moral dilemma at what I had just read.  

I go back to twitter to see the comments aimed at Hetty range from agitated to aggressive and I can’t help but think this girl may just have ruined her career with this one ill thought out tweet. Commenters are arguing that the tweet came from a girl who hides her privilege by donning a fetishised image of gritty working class Britain, but has probably never stepped one foot inside the real world. This perceived conflict of interest angers people and it’s easy to see why. If she had of made the comment to a friend, in person, the words would have disappeared, dissolved into a moment and inscribed themselves only on the minds of her and her friend. But she chose to use the Internet as her confidant. This split-second choice, to ridicule strangers in such a public way could now have a detrimental effect on the person she will become. The words flowed from her mind into her fingertips and onto the Internet, where they will remain forever. All I can think about is this young woman, who made a mistake – albeit very publicly – and those thousands of people who have ganged up on her to tell her all about it.

I choose not to speak up in the muddle of it all. I didn’t contribute my bit to the war of words in the thread and now I wonder why? Perhaps because my opinion was in a way one of a minority or perhaps feeling somewhat sympathetic towards Hetty I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable or become involved in that way? Although that doesn’t stop me from speaking up in my day-to-day life, so why then? I assume its something to do with some personal ethics I have and my understanding of the foreverness of the Internet. The fact that I am still fearful of the unknown space the web occupies and how my words, image and voice could be manipulated and altered irrevocably, simply by the way it is perceived online. Or perhaps because I felt like taking time to reflect and then speaking about it, like here perhaps, would be a more beneficial response to the incident? In any case, I hope Hetty can learn from this, and is allowed to learn from it, and I hope the people she was being offensive towards can see beyond the words.

It’s hard to believe that this force of communal anger will just dissipate and tomorrow the topic of choice will be something new. But the internet does seem to chew up and spit out incidents like this one, on a conveyer belt of media sensationalism that is constantly moving.  Perhaps there is something to be said in thinking before sharing, but without censoring. Just take a moment to consider your next move, as the fact that the instantaneousness of the internet doesn’t let you reel everything back in without leaving a trace.

I scroll down and see an image of a dog driving a car. This really amuses me and I share it. I then think about the contrast of those too singular events and how they live in the same world. I guess it feels like the internet is a reminder of the fragility of our society and also in contrast it’s great resilience.

I get back to my work now, where the internet is a catalyst for many of my best ideas and collaborations and connects me to communities far beyond my usual social parameters – revealing new behaviours and an altered state of human interaction that is ephemeral yet permanent. 

I WhatsApp my Mum whose immediate response makes me forget the 266 miles between us and how the internet can mean nothing and everything simultaneously.

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