Virtually all of us use online communication of one sort or another: you are reading this blog and no doubt you use a variety of social media platforms to comment on current affairs. I know I do and it’s a great way to connect with others and to create instant conversations. Following Twitter hashtag feeds during England World Cup football matches was great fun!
However, commenting online has a dark side, and one that recently showed its ugly head after an episode of The Great British Bakeoff. For people not familiar with this cult programme, it features amateur home bakers, who are set a number of challenges whilst situated in a quintessentially British park in a marquee. The contestants are all passionate about baking; amazing bakers and its all cosy and British with the uber-Auntie of cake baking – Mary Berry and Master Baker Paul Hollywood judging.
The programme is on its Fifth series and there are many home bakers like myself who watch in awe of the talents of the contestants. It is gentle and the contestants are not natural showoffs: they are not Big Brother or “Come dine with me” contestants, but quiet, passionate people who will spend a rainy afternoon baking bread!
However the editors and some of the audience now feel it is okay to make fun of the contestants. The editors have the power to be minxy, and with clever editing make innocent remarks or situations into a major drama. Last year they were accused of implying, through clever editing, that the female finalists were all at each others’ throats. The editing resulted in hate campaigns and awful troll remarks directed at the contestants which genuinely upset contestants. After all they were there to bake, not to promote their talent for future job opportunities.
This year, the programme has moved to BBC 1, so has picked up a new audience. I suspect the production company have been asked to provide opportunities for media coverage. One minor situation was baked out of control by the editors, resulting in an elderly lady being attacked on line. Here is an online description of the drama. When the episode came out, the contestant that was knocked out defended her, but more significantly one of the presenters revealed that the ice cream was out of the freezer for less than a minute and that there weren’t enough freezers provided by the production company, for the contestants to do their ice cream well. On a hot day. In a tent…
The contestant, Diana, didn’t appear in subsequent episodes resulting in further nasty speculation about her character and trustworthiness. It was revealed that she had been taken ill before the subsequent episode – leading to MORE inappropriate comments.
Today, her GP wrote to The Daily Telegraph to confirm the freak fall Diana had had, and the health consequences – including Diana losing her sense of smell and taste. Read here.
To be honest, I’m horrified with the whole situation. This was a 69 year old lady, who loves baking. She was chosen to be a participant. The production company edited the episode to make her look like an evil rival of another contestant; sabotaging his ice cream. She received a barrage of negative, vindictive comments on social media. She then suffered a freak accident and wasn’t able to compete, resulting in more negative coverage. Then to quiet the comments, her GP had to intervene. I am horrified she had to ask him to do this. Both the production company AND people writing awful comments online should be ashamed.
We all speculate on situations; gossip and intrigue is part of being a community, and everyone from the mean girls at school to the office bully can create a frenzy of false rumours to make a story interesting. As many people say, when it is in the papers or gossip in the office, it will blow over – or become tomorrow’s chip paper. But online communication is there for ever.
Commenting online is very impersonal; people hide behind pseudonyms; they are faceless. But their comments are still hurtful and damaging. No doubt Diana is regretting applying to be on The Great British Bake Off; online communication has made contestants of shows sitting ducks for this sort of vitriol.
Do comment below: I would love to hear your views on this.
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