There’s a joke doing the rounds on Facebook that says: “The best thing about being 40 is that you did all your stupid stuff before the invention of social media”.
It’s probably worded better than that - wittier and all - but there is a great deal of truth in it. While I’m not 40 yet (I will cling on to the remaining three years of my 30s with my increasingly old woman-like claws) I did have the chance to be a teenager, and a woman in her early twenties, perhaps drinking too much and acting the eejit without fear of being tagged on Facebook the following day.
The same cannot be said for today’s generation of young people. One step out of place and your face (or worse) will go viral before you can say hashtag.
No more so has this been evident than in the last few days - when the issue of Slane Girl (as I fear she will always be known) has become a major talking point.
For those who have not heard of Slane Girl - the whole episode is a sorry, and frankly, disturbing a tale. A teenager - just turned 17 - went to a gig by rapper Eminem at Slane Castle at the weekend. We can surmise she was under the influence of something - but we don’t know. What we do know is that the girl in question was pictured performing a sex act - publicly - on two different men.
The picture was then posted online and quickly circulated. At one stage the topic of #slanegirl was trending worldwide on Twitter.
There is so much about this which is disturbing, not least of course the fact that a young woman had so little respect for herself that she willingly carried out graphic sex acts in front of a large crowd. That said, we don’t know anything much about this girl, her background or what troubles she may have.
Social media users were quick to judge her. The men (one of whom stood, partially clothed, arms raised as if cheering himself) escaped largely unscathed. “Legends” they were called - while the 17 year-old was horribly branded. Double standards - alive and well in Ireland. Disrespect for women - alive and well around the world.
What worries me more is the person who took the picture and who shared the picture - for whom life has become so influenced by reality TV shows that they no longer appreciate the fact that the people in these pictures are real people, with real lives, who have to move on from this sorry episode.
We don’t all make such huge mistakes - but should social media really be judge and jury?