I LIKE Niall Horan. I like his work ethic. I like the way he dances like a young lad at a wedding. I like the way you can see in his eyes that he can’t believe his luck.
But when he used Twitter to accuse the rugby star Mike Philips of behaving “like a child”, being an “arrogant idiot” and having a “terrible attitude”, part of me wanted the Welsh goliath to come good on his threats and knock him into a new direction.
Paddy Power was right there with me offering both men almost £100,000 to get in the ring to settle the argument. But my reasons for wanting to see young Niall face-off with what some people call a “brick shit house” were different from bookmakers. I believe there needs to be more consequences for tweets that are dumb, thoughtless or hurtful to others. Tweetsequences if you will.
Mike Philips is like a child throwing his toys out of the pram! his attitude is terrible, looks like a right arrogant idiot
— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) February 8, 2014
What Niall Horan said about Mike Philips might have been true. He did behave badly in the game against Ireland. If he had toys and he was placed in a pram in that moment he would have thrown them everywhere.
He’s a rugby player. It would be demeaning to find yourself in the heat of battle in a baby carriage even if it was one those high-end Bugaboo strollers that looks like something you might see at a Winter Olympics event hurtling down a hill.
It just seems wrong that here is Niall Horan using his Twitter account to sling abuse at another public figure in a time when many of the young girls who adore him and his band are dealing with the same kind of bullying, all be it on a much smaller scale.
Am I getting carried away or has Twitter and the comment section under videos and articles become this green zone where anything goes in terms of the things you can say about people and things you know nothing about?
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) February 11, 2014
We’ve all done it. A cheeky tweet or status update about some sports star or contestant on The Voice who we think needs to rethink their career. Is it just “a bit of craic” or does it contribute to an atmosphere, to an adversarial air or school yard harshness.
I feel like that ‘anything-goes’, law of jungle aggressiveness pervades this new media of communication. Nothing is just pretty good - that won’t get retweeted. It has to be “The shittest thing in the history of the world” or “So good that everyone else should shoot themselves” (Both of those are actual tweets.)
The comment box is a place where it seems like we don’t have to bother considering the feelings of others. It certainly is good craic.
I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy reading the feed of comments about another cringey moment on The Late Late Show but why can’t I take more than five minutes of it? Because like anything you know to be inherently wrong such as not paying for something at the self-service checkout, it leaves you feeling little bit dirty.
I’ve received vile tweets, comments, emails and status updates just for attempting to tell jokes on the television. When I write that sentence it brings home how absurd it truly is that we should get this angry at people who attempt to entertain us!
Niall Horan surely knows all about this. His tweet is not the problem but you would certainly expect someone in the public eye not to contribute to the most cancerous part of the experience.
Mike Philips doesn’t know the first thing about singing in tune while performing a complicated dance number for the 15th night in a row while exhausted, just as young Niall has no clue about the stresses and strain of playing professional rugby.
Maybe Mike Philips didn’t give a damn. Maybe he gets so much abuse that at this stage it falls off him like knickers getting thrown at a boy band. But why should that make it okay to do it?
Last year the boxer Curtis Woodhouse became the ambassador for Tweetsequences when he tracked down a twitter troll who had abused him online. Woodhouse tweeted a picture of himself on the street where the @jimmyo88 lived and received a grovelling apology from Jimmy.
It’s not the way forward but perhaps it will serve as a cautionary tale for the next person who mistakes the right to free speech with the right to say anything.