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Do Read The Comments: How To Find The Good News Amid The Trolls

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Do Read The Comments: How To Find The Good News Amid The Trolls

Someone once told me that opinions are like arseholes.

Everyone’s got one, and nobody thinks theirs stinks of s***.

Social media has created a constant wall of noise. A cacophony of arseholes. All parping on about anything and everything, all the time.

It’s overwhelming at times. And can leave a bad taste.

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But how do we change it up, and look for the positives?

As a publisher, LADbible generates a truckload of comments across multiple platforms every day. Last year saw us rack up more than 100 million comments across our Facebook and Instagram pages.

You can imagine how much of a struggle it is to keep track of such volume.

Even the thickest skin can be punctured by an insult from an anonymous online troll.

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But to focus on that is to underplay the amazing things that can happen when online communities form. People find each other through the most bizarre, happy, sad, desperate and coincidental circumstances.

Experiences are shared. Advice is given. Friendships are formed.

In some cases, the impact is life-changing.

Like the time you – yes, you – raised enough money to buy a terminally ill eight-year-old an all-terrain wheelchair.

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Zach Holland was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which means Zach's muscles will slowly waste away as he gets older, forcing him to rely more and more on his parents or a wheelchair for mobility.

Zach Holland with the all-terrain wheelchair LADbible readers helped pay for.Credit: Kennedy News and Media
Zach Holland with the all-terrain wheelchair LADbible readers helped pay for.Credit: Kennedy News and Media

Mum Laura and step dad Josh thought they would be fundraising for more than a year to buy the device - but overwhelming support from LADbible readers after we published the story allowed them to reach their £14,000 target so quickly.

You also rallied round 20-year-old Folajimi 'Jimi' Olubunmi-Adewole, who saw a woman fall from London Bridge into the River Thames and selflessly jumped into the river to save her, tragically losing his own life.

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Jimi's friend Bernard Kosia told Good Morning Britain: "He didn't think twice as to what was going to happen. I just remember him saying, 'Bernard, I have to save her, I'm going to save her.'"

Jimi was named your 2021 LAD of the Year for his truly selfless act.

Folajimi 'Jimi' Olubunmi-Adewole tragically died saving a woman from drowning in the Thames. Credit: GoFundMe
Folajimi 'Jimi' Olubunmi-Adewole tragically died saving a woman from drowning in the Thames. Credit: GoFundMe

A fundraiser was set up to raise cover funeral costs for Jimi's family and incredibly raised more than £150,000.

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They’re just two examples of how real world change can come from an online community. And it’s not always about the money – it's the sentiment behind it.

Yes, yes, there’s always plenty of thoughts and prayers and winsome hashtags. But when sentiment becomes real change, that’s a powerful thing. Just ask Marcus Rashford.

Over the next week, LADbible’s Do Read The Comments will bring you stories of how a social audience has helped people through difficult times, changed lives for the better and how some people in the public eye deal with the constant barrage of online feedback (abuse) they receive.

It used to be that the loudest five percent controlled 95 percent of the conversation, shouting down anyone who dared take them on. 

Bigotry got brave. Tribalism enabled armies to form and spread hate, misinformation and at times, genuine fear.

But rather than allow them to be a toxic pond of misguided opinion, those comments have given a platform for outdated opinions to be challenged.

Tragic stories such as the murder of Sarah Everard and more recently, Ashling Murphy, have given voice to women – and men – about the change needed for a better society. And those voices refused to be shouted down. The collective force made it impossible to ignore.

Last summer, three young England players were targeted by a small but vile mob of racists via social media. It was inevitable, but no less sickening. 

But what quickly stood out was the response from a far bigger army of supporters, calling them out, backing the players and creating a platform discussion around why that sort of behaviour just isn't acceptable.

A mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester was covered in supportive messages after it was vandalised with racist graffiti. Credit: Alamy
A mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester was covered in supportive messages after it was vandalised with racist graffiti. Credit: Alamy

It led to 52-year-old Jonathon Best being jailed for the comments he made on a Facebook live stream after the Euro 2020 final.

Best was arrested after a colleague reported the 18-second clip to Facebook and the police, after he refused to take it down. Facebook took the clip down three days later.

His justification? ‘It’s my profile, I can do what I want.’

But lots of other people are finding that being able to do what they want on their social platform is a vehicle for positive change, or helps to give perspective and extra information around a subject where the nuances may easily be missed.

These are the stories we want to tell, and they are the comments worth paying attention to.

Nobody is naïve enough to think that the world ‘below the line’ will ever be rid of the negative or the hateful. It’s an easy place for the cowardly or misinformed to hide, trying to plant the seeds of division. The angry mob will always find a place to congregate.

But we have the power to choose how to respond, or how much weight we give them.

The power to not look or listen too hard is in our hands. Or eyes and ears.

The arseholes can get on with it on their own.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Simon Binns
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