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I enjoy using twitter.  I’m trying to get into using Instagram.  I’ve stopped using Facebook.  What I’ve noticed over a significant period of time, particularly on twitter, is how debased debate (I use that word sometimes in its loosest sense) is becoming, particularly involving our elected politicians – particularly MPs.  The rudeness, the vileness, the downright aggression that you see on some peoples timelines is, in my opinion, an utter disgrace and something we as a country should be ashamed of.

I have always said that the one (of many) things my parents taught me was to have good manners.  I repeat this regularly as a sort of mantra in front of the students I teach – particularly when I feel they are showing bad manners themselves.  They taught me these values well before the social media age, but the concept is not old fashioned as some would say, it is timeless.

As someone with a deep interest in politics, I follow many MPs including my own, Angela Smith.  I look at their posts on twitter and even on ones totally unrelated, you look at the comments and the abuse they get is scary.  A significant amount of abuse currently is coming from the far left towards moderate Labour politicians as well as to Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but the most abused MP on Twitter is actually Diane Abbott, the shadow Labour Home Secretary and the abuse she gets comes from ignorant bigoted usually far-right types.  You scroll through her timeline and you will see misogynistic, racist and frightening levels of abuse that no-one deserves.  I am not Ms Abbotts biggest fan and if you scroll through my own twitter timeline you will see this – but I would hope that what you would also see is that where I criticise her I avoid foul, racist, misogynistic or threatening language.

I will go on record as saying that whilst I will disagree with much of what most of our MPs say at the moment, I respect them ALL deeply.  I respect the role they do and the efforts they put in and they manage this whilst trying to ignore the abuse they get in person but often on twitter.  Yes in respects of most they get paid well – £77,000 + some expenses is significantly better than the majority of people in the country, but a lot lower than similar political representatives across the world.  For this most of them leave their families behind in their constituencies for at least 4 days a week and spend the other 3 doing surgeries and functions in their constituency.  MPs have become, over the last couple of decades, glorified social workers.  I for one believe they work hard for their money and deserve it but they also deserve our respect and appreciation.

I am trying, in my own small way, to start a campaign to bring respect back to social media – particularly towards our elected representatives.  Over a period of time I intend writing to ALL 643 MPs who take their seats in Westminster to thank them for what they do on our behalves.  (I say over a period of time – I’m a believer in the art of writing actual letters and 643 stamps is a significant outlay for a poor teacher!! I will start with my local South Yorkshire MPs as well as some of the most abused on twitter – of ALL parties).  I also want to push the twitter hashtag #BeCivil to remind us all that whether you agree or disagree with someone, don’t abuse – argue rationally and civilly instead.  Also, it appears to be the time and place to make pledges at the moment, so I’m stealing inspired by one doing the rounds this weekend – my #BeCivil pledge which I call on everyone to sign and hold themselves to.  You can download the pledge here.

Please consider signing it and posting it with the #BeCivil hashtag.

I may be one insignificant school teacher with a minimal twitter following but, as they say from small acorns great oaks grow and I’m trying to plant my own little acorn today.  Together let us bring respect to social media and respond to views that are different from our own with civility and argument rather than threats and abuse, but most of all, appreciate your elected representatives.  You may not agree with them most or all the time, but they do a good job and irrespective of your views, they will try and help you if you need it!  #BeCivil

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Wayne Chadburn

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