[DIGITAL] Bless and Block the Trolls #BlessandBlock

Yesterday, after being on BBC Breakfast, as expected, I received a couple of negative comments about my weight (particularly aware because of my involvement in Beyond Chocolate, and the #HAES hashtag). Despite so many positive comments any time I appear on TV, I still remember that when I was on The One Show, sat next to Mel Giedroyc, and someone tweeted that ‘Sue Perkins next to her seems to have porked out somewhat’. People need to remember this:

As I tweeted, I expected that a programme of such high profile, would attract someone who’s focus was on my weight, rather than my expertise.

As I wrote in a piece about someone who trolled the McCanns, but was then pushed into the glare of the media:

…the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which covers Twitter, notes that it is an offence to send messages to another person which are “indecent or grossly offensive”, threatening or false. If the message is intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient, they breach the law.

As written in a piece on Psychology Today “Why do people think it’s okay to say racist, inflammatory, or otherwise socially inappropriate things online?”. Most of the time I’d ignore trolls , but this time, I decided I’d respond to the (thankfully only) two that I received/noted on the hashtag.

The first was this, which thankfully a friend had seen and nicely responded to:

*I realise that those who are determined can find out who these people are, but I don’t want a pile on so I have blanked all accounts out for now.

As I wrote in my book (p119), my friend is refusing to be a bystander:

The role of bystanders is often ignored in discussions about online bullying, but they can play an important role in encouraging children to take action. Don’t forget the famous saying attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” When a situation is already difficult, the real-time nature of social media can feed the situation, but it can also be used to ease tension and allow friends of the victim to declare themselves as “digital allies”. If someone spots a hurtful comment, three others can then come in and protest against the posting.

I posted about this on Facebook, and said that I was tempted to post back with the image of the following badge which had just arrived in the post – and then decided to!

Fred (as this is what he called himself, though clearly not his name) wanted to know why he should care, to which I responded:

To which I received the following response:

A lot of my friends are pretty digitally literate (and listen to my rants about interacting positively, and using social media with wisdom, etc.), and a few more responses came in:

To which I said:

And another friend posted:

Some brought some beautiful responses from our troll *language warning:

In fact you’ll see that our troll is very ‘eloquent’ in his responses:

Another response from a friend gets even more eloquence:

I decided it was worth engaging a couple of times, but clearly he was a ‘proper troll’, and not to be engaged with, so I followed the example of my friend Kate, and went for the ‘Bless and Block’ approach (I’m not quite sure what the second response meant, but…).

Whilst I was at it, I reported the account, and soon after it was suspended. I was surprised that that had happened so fast, though algorithms could be looking for specific insulting words in reported users?!

As Michelle Obama famously said:

I saw this later in the day and thought it summed up how some people approach Twitter – not with reasoned debate, but looking for a snarling fight:

The other person I interacted with, however, demonstrated that it’s sometimes worth trying (he’d posted something about the fact that I should have been down the gym, rather than on Twitter…):

His excuse was:

I am not a fan of excusing anything as ‘Bantz’ because it usually covers up a whole load of unacceptable things (as this misuse of Keep Calm demonstrates):

Fortunately, I also had a load of lovely comments from friends (known and unknown), and this is a good mantra.

It does bug, but basically, it’s not someone’s opinion who I care about, but does continue to drive my passion for continuing to seek ways to make online interactions (and the whole of life) more inclusive, and a more positive space to be!


Love this 🙂

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Media & Press Media - Visual

[MEDIA] Talking #ScrollFreeSeptember (@R_S_P_H) with @BBCBreakfast #BBCBreakfast

NOTE: There are two clips within this post, one from 7.20am, one from 9.40am.

In May 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health produced a report #StateofMind looking at the correlation (though not necessarily causation) between young people’s social media use and mental health/wellbeing. The key findings were:

  • 91% of 16-24 year olds use the internet for social networking
  • Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol
  • Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen 70% in the past 25 years
  • Social media use is linked with increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep
  • Cyber bullying is a growing problem with 7 in 10 young people saying they have experienced it
  • Social media can improve young people’s access to other people’s experiences of health and expert health information
  • Those who use social media report being more emotionally supported through their contacts

With an unexpected interest in this, they then developed this into the idea of #ScrollFreeSeptember:

The story was picked up in a BBC article at the end of July, but for BBC Breakfast, it made for a good weekend story (Saturday being their day with the highest viewing figures, apparently). It was an early start this morning, with an alarm at 5.30am, taxi at 6am, and at MediaCity, Salford, by 6.30am, ready for make-up, meeting Ed Morrow who I’d be on the sofa with, and chatting to the producers about what to expect/likely questions, and getting miked up.


The original timeslot was 7.20am, and we were then asked to stay on and discuss again til 9.30am (subject to NASA rocket launch). It felt like we had just done introductions, when our timeslot was up … although apparently they’d extended our slot because they liked what we were saying:

Pics from 7.20am slot on @bbcbreakfast – on again 9.30am #scrollfreeseptember

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We spent the intervening time chatting in the Green Room, chomping on a bit of breakfast, and interacting with the others who were on the sofa, as well as our social media feeds!:


Once it was confirmed that the NASA rocket launch is delayed until tomorrow, we went on a fraction later than expected (it’s live news, until your face is being beamed out, you assume you might get bumped!)

Prep Notes

Aside from looking at the BBC story, RSPH page, and the video, I hoicked out a few of the things I’d written/spoken about in the past (and read Yvonne Kelly’s guest blog) and pulled together a few other ideas:

  • Accepted submission to ‘Impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health inquiry’ Commons Select Committee (2018).
  • Alicia Blum-Ross: When parents choose ‘screen time’ (2016).
  • There’s a consistent media narrative that needs dealing with. Leads with words such as ‘negative, addictive’, rather than leading with the possibilities and the positive. Most pieces have one line that ‘of course there’s good stuff, but look at all this bad stuff’.
  • Social media is not necessarily something that people need to detox from, and that many don’t actually work in the revolutionary way that people expect (see book extract) – people find other things to fill their time with. When taken in the sense of ‘give it all up’ (rather like a diet, may work in the short term, doesn’t help in the long term – see Beyond Chocolate) – people are likely to give up and then give in – and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Smaller steps in a coaching style = ‘how would it be to try x’?
  • For many people (and not just young people), our phones are somewhat of a Swiss knife, and have much more functionality than many give them credit for.
  • There is value in reflecting on our habits and practices online .. I struggle with the notion that the #ScrollFreeSeptember, although it talks about different levels of ‘giving up’, seems to view going ‘cold turkey’ as a gold standard to be aimed for! The notion of not using for work/school makes sense, except within appropriate sessions … partly depends what your job is. If I need to focus on writing, I’ll often turn it off (and use it for accountability!)
  • The notion of giving up for a month-ish, I’ve looked at before with church members ‘giving up for Lent’, and it feels rather like saying ‘I won’t talk to those friends for a month’. Dave White – Residents & Visitors.
  • RSPH indicates that work social media is OK, but this is where I see a lot of the pressure comes from (companies need to look at policies around social/digital as much as email, and not necessarily starting from a ‘do not’ standpoint)
  • My key point is likely to be a focus on quality not quantity of interaction (see also this 2016 report from LSE).
  • There’s also so much pressure to ‘be productive’ in contemporary times, and it’s OK to make space for play too (balance please).
  • If we’re focusing on technology as the problem, we’re not looking at the other issues – e.g. exam pressures, feeling of limited career options .
  • What happens online tends to be offline amplified (it’s not either-or, or real-virtual), so the cultural expectations to respond ASAP, etc. come from outside the tech. The companies need to look at how they build the software and making their gamification hooks TOO compelling, and need to be answerable to government.
  • There’s always the question of ‘correlation-causation’. Huge amount of pressure on kids – but if we’re focusing on blaming the technology, we’re not thinking about the other pressures (I see #HeadsTogether – the Royal Charity) tends to emphasise this side of things.. and the benefit of bit of mindless activity online. *With computer games, worth giving children e.g.a 20 min warning so they can finish a level, or give them a time range in which they should be finished.
  • One of my favourite quotes from @Livingstone_S is ‘Even though in practice, face-to-face communication can, of course, be angry, negligent, resistant, deceitful and inflexible, somehow it remains the ideal against which mediated communication is judged as flawed’. (2009, 26)
  • As a historian, look back at previous moral panics – we have survived worse things in the past – suspect Ed & I have a lot in common – both want what’s best for children (and rest of society), and in many ways parts of this plan are good (e.g. not all or nothing), but the way it’s framed is part of wider media narrative that technology is ‘bad’ and needs ‘managing’
  • Support groups are great (for single parents, widowed, elderly – my cancer treatment and the value of FB groups (e.g. YBCN, UKBCSG and WIASN) + other social media to connect with others in a way that wasn’t limited by geography – or the time of night-day). Hoping to look at this with Macmillan bid: how does good/bad peer-to-peer information impact on patients and clinical decision making.
  • Bottom line surely is if social media is impacting on your life negatively then taking time to reflect and examine is wise! For some – it may be helpful for some to say ‘I’m doing this thing, so you can’t contact me (between x hours)’. Otherwise, the apologies and feelings of guilt that ‘go on social media every day’ or ‘for 10 hours a week’ is problematic.
  • Draft from Telegraph piece: 39% of 8-11 year olds have their own smartphone, 52% their own tablet device, and 94% are online, for an average of over 13 hours a week. These are just some of the stats from Ofcom’s November 2017 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report which demonstrate just how thoroughly embedded digital and social media have become within children’s lives. Much of what children do online is positive, including access to information around areas of concern such as mental health and body image, strengthening relationships with friends and family via social media, and access to strong peer support networks. Also: Dustin Hutchinson, National Children’s Bureau, noted to a recent select committee that young people have asked for warnings on social media sites, clear privacy settings, and simple reporting measures in apps. Carolyn Bunting, Internet Matters, said: ‘One of the most critical points is that I do not think that we can use technology and regulation to find our way out of this situation. This is really a cultural and societal issue. It is really all about education of children and parents in this space.’ Families can make use of opt-in filtering from their internet and mobile providers. They can also use ‘parental control apps’ such as FamilyTime, Qustodio, Norton Family Premier, or ESET Parental Control, used in discussion with your child, as a learning opportunity, rather than as a form of spying. The digital is now part of life, and life is not risk free, and requires a multi-stakeholder approach, including wider society.
  • Social Media and Surveillance extract: Much media discourse around digital and social media is negative, claiming that it is all a ‘waste of time’, and simply provides a space for poorly-managed conflict. Within society, especially religious cultures, the ‘protestant work ethic’ has infected the discourse (van Hoorn, A. & Maseland, R., 2013, 10). The notion that users may be wasting time, assumes that all users use it the same way, and use it negatively (Goldsmith, 2016). It signifies the moral panics that accompany every new technological development: ‘If modern people worry over whether digital electronics threaten to corrupt religious experience, their grandparents worried about the intrusion of electrical light into sacred spaces, and their great-grandparents debated the permissibility of musical instruments for worship’ (Adam, 2012, 5). Adam identifies that socially permissible uses of technology are for clothing, shelter, and food preparation, and that any use for entertainment, comfort and self-indulgence is deemed impermissible (2012, 7). There is no doubt that online content is full of triviality, but no more than in everyday conversation amidst stages of relationship formation, where surface conversation topics help establish trust, defined by McCormack (2018) as ‘weak ties’, leading to ‘strong ties’ amongst mountain biking communities.”
  • The pressure on physical presence together, or a physical book – how and when should we be online, (when is it helpful, what do you need to learn/know, why might you be expected to interact with others just because you happen to be physically together, but if you are physically together then you should be – that doesn’t mean don’t end up using phones – we often have a online/offline convo searching something together, etc. like that art picture … at least social media is interactive.
  • how can we protect ourselves from getting lonely using social media etc. (it’s all about how we use it – see the benefits e.g. for those who are disabled – lots of technology is enabling, for those on the autistic spectrum – use online/offline) … those who are using social media as some kind of barrier/mask, etc. are likely those already struggling – amplifies what is already happening.
  • See as DIFFERENT aspects of one life – have been challenging people to move from virtual/real to online/offline, but even that is not necessarily a helpful distinction – in the past, kids talking about a parent who wrote a book said it was like talking about how to write with a pencil
  • Responsibility on all of us – govt, parents, schools, youth groups, etc. We shape the environment, and we can’t put all the pressure on parents, although children are looking for boundaries so also parents can’t put everything onto legislation … how much trust do we put in the social media companies – need to be questioning what they are doing, ensure they are being held accountable – they have a lot of power (but then so have other groups in the past). Need to teach strong values – what happens online is offline accelerated – if children are taught that x is wrong, and understand why – less likely to undertake unhealthy habits such as bullying. Question of addiction – v few are truly addicted (self-definition)– those who are need help … need to look at own habits (we’re role models), and demonstrate healthy use. E.g.. putting phone to one side for time together, playing board games … but not demonizing tech.
  • Paranoia – many of these things are not inherently bad – and screentime should be about quality not quantity… that doesn’t mean you can’t set screentime limits but question whether you would say the same thing if your child had their nose in a book for weeks on end (as I did when I grew up as had no TV) – why is digital ‘bad’ whereas the range of things that can be done on a device these days…

And it appears that there’s a deadline of MONDAY on an APPG on young people/social media/mental health.


Keep Calm and Campaign On @bbcbreakfast #Keepcalmandcarryon

This morning on @bbcbreakfast (8.20am), the story was broadcast re Mark Coop’s (successful, so far) attempt to trademark ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ within the EU (as applied to the items he sells: t-shirts, mugs, etc.).

Mark Cooper owns, which as you can see has capitalised hugely on the slogan:

On TV this morning he said:

Having quit the day job, and put my life and soul into this, and build it up, and then rely on it for my livelihood, I have to protect my own interests, you know, and faced with the risk of losing everything that you’ve worked for, I’d find it hard that other people wouldn’t do the same thing.

Apparently someone has to provide “evidence of use”…. He then said, and the bit that gets to me:

Had I not built this up, they probably would have never have heard of it, you know, they would never have, you know, even seen it, so I think they are jumping on the back of essentially what I came up with

Note that even on his site (yes, he was the first to register the domain name, and that’s his entrepreneurialism…), he (has had to) recognise that the history of it is taken from my 1997 undergraduate dissertation (and I then wrote more on it in my PhD, which I have made available under Creative Commons attribution licence):

Now bring into the argument that Barter Books were the ones to ‘discover’ the poster in a box in 2000, starting the first reprints in 2001, and the first to start producing facsimile posters/t-shirts, etc., and that (as far as I am aware) Mark Coop doesn’t own an original of the poster: for years carried the information that I had written for my dissertation on the site with no credit, but Barter Books have always credited my information:

Note that this information emerged from several years of research, which have involved my research time, my intellectual capacity (such as it may be), and costs for e.g. travel to the archives/photocopies/laptop to record data/web hosting costs, etc. (believe me research is not cheap, and is usually only repaid in terms of ‘reputation building’ which creates job opportunities). I have been featured in a number of press articles talking about the poster, but have not sought to capitalise financially upon this (although any items with the slogan or derivatives upon it welcomed for my collection!!), although I thought about a t-shirt/hoodie with the history written on the back. This is partly because I DON’T own an original of the poster, and am unclear about the legal status of the design. The design is Crown Copyright, which only lasts for 50 years (the @I_W_M administers this, so could tell us more), but as I understand it, you need an original to produce copies (the parodies are another matter)…

Morally and ethically, however, I think this stinks, big time.. as noted by the New York Times!! There are people with a much better claim to trademarking this, including the IWM, Barter Books, and me, but I, at least, am far too interested in the story!! We’re in a Web 2.0 world, where collaboration, acknowledgement, etc. are all-important, and this flies in the face of all this…

To note also… the Wikipedia page on this… which took me four attempts to register any information. Someone else (one of the newspapers… see also Nigel Rees used my information without attribution), had taken my information (one of the times I’m thankful to the Daily Express for alerting me) without credit, and I had to delve in amongst my research for ‘new’ information (I think I may have some more, but I need to earn a living (@bigbible @digitalfprint, @blwinch), so this gets a little neglected…

There’s an e-campaign, and a number of counter-claims (Trade Mark Direct; Freelance UK), to overturn this … I’d say “Keep Calm and Campaign On”.

My Twitter and my Facebook has certainly been busy with people contacting me this morning, and #Keepcalmandcarryon and ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ are both quite busy!

Wonder what else I’ll think of to post, as soon as this blog post goes live… comments welcomed, people!!