Part of the deal with being in the public eye (in any way) is receiving feedback – the good, the bad and, occasionally, the very ugly.
Feedback isn’t necessarily a dirty word, of course. For us, it can provide a different point of view or a new lead on a story.
But over the past dozen years or so, with the growing popularity of social media – Facebook in particular – it has frequently taken on a somewhat darker tone.
I’m hardly the first to point out that online comment sections have become, at times, virtual cesspools, where people feel free to express thoughts better kept to themselves.
So when we posted a story recently about the Muslim community opening its doors to the community, it was disappointing but, sadly, not all that shocking, to find ourselves deleting a few overtly racist comments.
But, as it turns out, I can still be genuinely surprised by just how awful some people (and, granted, they are the exception) are capable of being.
The comments in question came in response to a story we picked up from the wire about teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s journey home to Europe aboard a catamaran.
Not one, but two, commenters took time out of their busy day to suggest, somewhat gleefully, that her boat might sink in the Atlantic. One even expressed the hope that it would happen.
Can you imagine?
Who do you have to be to wish death – or even the risk of it – on a 16-year-old? Even in “jest.”
Presumably, you’re doing so because you don’t subscribe to her point of view or (worse) don’t feel that she has the right to express her strong opinions on a subject that is going to affect her for many decades to come.
Which brings me to another teen who has serious concerns about her future in the face of climate change – Elgin Park Secondary senior Miranda Clark.
Miranda recently approached us about sharing regular tips with our readers for creating a smaller environmental footprint. She had a handful of ideas ready to go and was excited to share them with Peace Arch News readers.
I asked whether she might be interested in turning those tips into a regular column instead, and use the extra space to expand on her ideas for plastic waste reduction and other environmental topics.
She jumped at the chance, and we’re happy to be able to offer her space once a month – starting today – to share a young person’s point of view on the subject.
At the same time, I felt compelled to warn her that there is a chance she’s going to get some blow-back from people who don’t want to hear that actions, carried out over their lifetime, have helped contribute to the current crisis.
She assured me that she’s happy to hear any feedback sent her way, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Perhaps having grown up in the age of social media, she’s learned to roll with it. Or perhaps, like me, she will be stunned by how nasty it can occasionally get.
I sincerely hope this isn’t the case.
So, read our new Green Space column and, by all means, respond. Agree, disagree, argue your own point of view. But please remember that, even if indirectly, you’re talking to a teenager.
Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.