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‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’
It could be said that when this was first coined — by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 — those who preferred the pen over the sword still had to know how to handle themselves physically. The risk was ever-present that they might be challenged to a bout of fisticuffs as a result of what they wrote.
Even if they never had to take a punch, their lives back then were much less comfortable and involved an amount of slogging compared to many of their equivalents today. These are namely the smug, do-gooder hacks who pontificate to the masses they claim to “understand” from a safe distance and the ubiquitous keyboard warriors.
While one could perhaps excuse some — some, that is — journalists for acting in good faith, there is less room for forgiveness for those who spend hours trolling on social media, save from them not actually having a real social life.
This latter cohort’s main purpose is to attack and belittle. They rarely if ever have anything informative to say.
‘Social media has provided them with a platform to overcome their many shortcomings in physically interacting with Homo sapiens.’
And why not when they tend not to face any real consequences for their actions? It’s safe to assume that if they were dragged out from their virtual undergrowth to debate in a real-life public space they’d be rather different, less pugnacious characters.
One can picture the types. Mollycoddled individuals, constantly told how wonderful they are by their parents whilst getting everything handed to them. Social media has provided them with a platform to overcome their many shortcomings in physically interacting with Homo sapiens, allowing them to engage where otherwise they would simply be dismissed and ignored.
Of course, one can simply refuse to interact with them on their terms in the first instance. Give the dog a bone and all that.
However, at times, it’s difficult to avoid being lured in to their virtual combat. Also, for a brief period, it can be fun. The problem is, if you go down the rabbit hole, it can take an amount of mental effort to find a way out. It’s usually not worth it.
Thus, the best strategy is not to enter in the first place.
As I’ve said before, social media are mere tools; addictive they can be but tools they are nonetheless. Ultimate power rests with the user.
Engage if needs be — and in many industries, social media have become indispensable in order to gain a competitive advantage or to remain “relevant” — but engage on your terms.
The pen and the sword, after all, are only as effective as the people wielding them. There’s a time to write and there’s a time to get out and “fight”.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.