Bad language on Twitter

What are we to make of bad language on Twitter? You can, of course, just ‘unfollow’ someone who makes you blush. But that’s a bit like trying to ‘unfollow’ someone in the aisle ahead of you at Tesco Metro. You may avoid what’s upsetting you, but you can’t get the shopping done.  

Twitter works by bringing together whole communities of people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet. You can’t be too outraged by strange opinions or there’s no point in joining at all. You might as well just sit, mouth zipped, in solitary silence.

But equally, as Twitter is a public forum, you should be able to expect a certain standard of behaviour.

The hurling of sexist abuse, for example, is as horrifying as the sight of a human rights campaigner running naked through the streets of San Diego. (I am not, I hasten to add, seeking to heap shame on those who suffer from mental illness. Both misogyny and psychosis require urgent medical intervention.)

The problem is that some people get very excited by bad language. Even celebrities.  I think it makes them feel young and carefree.

But they forget that those around them  –  me, for example  – might feel very differently.

In my view, it should be possible to express yourself in public without causing offence.

If you really can’t articulate what you want to say without using shocking language, you can always use asterisks. Twitter is, after all, a forum for the written word and writing for the general public (in newspapers, for example) generally makes lavish use of this convention.

Someone called Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) uses asterisks. This, in my view, is a perfectly acceptable compromise. In a recent tweet, he said, ‘No mate. F**k ’em. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.’ He obviously felt extremely strongly about whatever the issue was, but realised that spelling out the word in full might be upsetting.

On the other hand, someone called Giles Coren (@gilescoren) went out for a drive, crashed, and used utterly appalling language to express his self-disgust.

I’m not claiming that this is an exclusively male fault. Women, too, can tweet offensively. 

But I do think the time has come to turn over a new leaf and become more respectful of each other’s sensibilities.

If you agree with me, we could start a discussion on Twitter using a hashtag. #f**k, for example.

Alternatively, do post a comment.

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