OPINION

Love, hate: two sides of online coin

ONE of the many curious things about social media is that its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.

One of the best things about social media is that it provides a voice and platform for people and causes that would otherwise have been kept silent.

It is a way of building a community and garnering support for an issue that has effectively shrunk the world to the size of a single mobile device.

It also allows people to keep in touch with family and friends who they don't see often enough.

In a country as large as Australia it can be difficult and costly to arrange catch-ups in person

Thanks to social media it's now possible to keep connected, often via photos, to the people we care about the most no matter where they live.

Social media also provides fans with the opportunity to engage with (and adore) high-profile personalities, sportspeople and entertainers from the safety of their homes.

Which is all great, except when it isn't.

Because one of the worst things about social media is that it provides a voice and platform for people and causes that would otherwise have been kept silent.

No longer are individuals with extreme or dangerous views confined to wallowing in their lonely thoughts inside their darkened bedroom; now they can embark on a worldwide search for like-minded loons.

And social media, even in smaller communities like Cowra, provides talentless, anonymous trolls the opportunity to engage with (and abuse) high-profile politicians, sportspeople and entertainers from the safety of their homes.

It's a sad form of entertainment but the access social media allows can prove far too alluring for some disturbed people to resist.

We can only despair that there are people among us who think it acceptable, amusing or even brave to abuse anyone online.

That is not to excuse anyone's behaviour, but at times the comments are just way out of line.

We can only hope that as the technology develops, the social media giants will pursue better ways to name, shame and prosecute those responsible.

It's a flaw in the message, not the medium. When used properly, social media is a powerful tool for community and cohesion.

Too often, though, it is nothing more than a coward's calling card.