Wilson Gavin's tragic death must not be in vain
AS someone who has been in digital media for more than a decade, I should be discussing ideas on Facebook and Twitter a lot more than I am.
The reality though, is I can't stand it - particularly Twitter.
The toxic environment, which has already resulted in the suicides of far too many people, not to mention depression and anxiety disorders, is repulsive.
Working in media, politics or public life, you always had to have a thick skin.
But the vitriol being poured out on some of our social media platforms these days is unacceptable, almost criminal.
When Wilson Gavin took his own life this week, after being savaged on Twitter, I was horrified.
Here was a young man, whom few people actually knew, being targeted viciously because he was involved in a protest against a drag queen reading at a Brisbane library.
While many would rightly question his style of protest - and his target - the level of sustained attack on him was surely disproportionate to his 'offence'.
And of course, those targeting him didn't know much at all about Wilson Gavin and who he was.
According to his family, the 21-year-old was a compassionate, generous young man who did everything from volunteering his time in a Brisbane soup kitchen every Saturday night to helping out at a school in Mongolia during a gap year.
Like many young people, he was passionate about many causes, including more traditional, conservative views.
His protest obviously upset the LBGTIQA communities in Queensland - and others - who went after him.
The problem we see today, too often, is people are playing the man, not the ball.
Debates about issues like climate change, marriage equality, Donald Trump and religion became more about attacking the people making arguments than arguing the points themselves.
Wilson's family admit there were times when he took on issues they didn't agree with.
But they say he had a sense of compassion and of justice that wasn't seen in that video footage which went viral this week.
If there's one lesson that we should all learn from Wilson Gavin's tragic death is that words do matter.
On this website, we have a policy of rejecting comments which attack other people. We want to encourage healthy, meaningful debates rather than allow sniping attacks.
On some days, our moderators reject more than 50% of the comments that are posted because they are meaningless attacks on people rather than ideas.
Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter surely now have a responsibility, as publishers, to ensure proper standards on their sites.
If the sites are there to facilitate and fuel hate, rather than understanding, they are failing us all.
As individuals, if we contribute to that, we are failing each other.
Mark Furler is group digital editor for News Regional Media. He has been a journalist for more than 30 years.