Ten things Irish politicians should realise about the Internet and social media.

1. It’s not new. All this waffle about “abusive comments” and “cyberbullying” would give you the impression that that this had sprung up out of nowhere.

It hasn’t. Since the dawn of time on the Internet, people have abused one another.

2. The more extreme your opinions, the more extreme the reactions you will provoke.

If you insist on bashing out offensive twaddle with your rosary beads entwined around your stubby fingers, don’t be surprised if some patchouli-oil drenched feminist calls you a wanker.

3. The Internet is not a broadcast medium.

Hard to believe, I know, but this is not like appearing on the One O’Clock News, where you say your piece, Seán O’Rourke tries to provoke you a little bit and then you don’t answer any of his questions before sailing off on a wave of smug self-satisfaction.

In Internet land, people can respond.

And worse again, they have facts, and arguments, and like-minded individuals to back them up. Frightening.

4. The law of the land applies online.

You think something is libellous? Fine. Sue.

You think it’s illegal? Call the cops.

You find it offensive? Grow a pair.

No matter how bad it gets, there is always someone suffering worse.

I have seen first-hand the vile abuse that women are subjected to on the Internet by Neanderthals, and unfortunately if it ain’t illegal, you can only take it for what it is.

Which is nonesense, to be ignored. So use the block and report functions.

It isn’t that difficult, and it’s very effective.

5. The Internet magnifies anger, and none more so than the righteous anger of the grievioulsy wronged.

See all that stuff about wanting to crucify Ronan Mullen using rusty nails? They don’t really, genuinely want to do that.

Probably.

6. Social media is actually your friend – particularly Twitter.

It’s a real-time baromoeter of what a lot of people in the country think, and it even compartmentalises itself nicely.

You have the anti-abortion crackpot wing (new accounts where “foetus” and “baby” are interchangble), you have the Libertas wing, you have the free-spirited economic wing, and the D4 meeja brigade.

And then you have the suave, intelligent, succinct media commentator brigade, but I’m pretty much on my own there. For now, at least.

7. Very few people can manage to successfully be someone else on the Internet, because over the course of time you will get found out.

A drunken comment here, a racist aside there – all will come up in the Google wash at one point or another, and all can be magnified under the hue and cry of the mainstream media spotlight – let alone the social media one.

8. Stop trying to control the medium – the medium is not the problem.

It’s the message you should be concerned about – if people disagree with you, as a politician you should be trying to work out why.

Is it because they are Nazis, or because your actions or your vote takes money out of their pocket, or bread off their table, or teachers out of their schools?

9. Take a line out of Twitter’s book and tell the party whip to go f**k himself.

That will save you 95% of the abusive tweets and e-mails you get, because at least you’ll be sticking up for your voters, rather than your party overlords.

10. Stop reading this and go engage with your voters online, via social media and the rest.

You’ll soon find that most of the people who do engage are passionate, politically aware and patriotic, and the rest are the extremist crackpots that you could expect to meet in any walk of life.

Especially if you work in Dáil Eireann.

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