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01st Sep 2020

Thousands of strangers lining up to roar abuse helps nothing

Conan Doherty

There’s a saying in Derry, take your oil.

It’s a shame that it still hasn’t infiltrated the rest of the island after all these years because it’s not only perfect, it’s also hard to explain. But it just fits.

Someone asked me before what the hell I was talking about when I used it and all I could muster was, “you know… like… take your diesel.”

You find that with a lot of the Derry dialect, reaching for more obscure vernaculars to explain the first one.

– What does bount mean?
– Something you do when you’re getting a cheevy.
– What?
– You run when you’re being chased.

But, anyway, take your oil.

It’s not so much that you always deserve it but it’s the hand you’ve been dealt and you just have to suck it up. Whatever reason that oil is in front of you – it might be your own doing, it might be bad luck – it’s the only oil you’re getting and you just need to take whatever you’re given. As my ma used to say about dinner portions, you’ll get your gettings, but that’s a whole other story.

There might be an element of take your oil about the reaction to the young women of Skerries gaining so much notoriety for hanging out in a way that you can only assume is a wet dream for an infectious virus and then making light of it on TikTok.

If you do something out of line, there are usually consequences and when your actions potentially jeopardise others – or your social media posts maybe influence more to do the same – then you’re going to hear about it and you should listen, too. But the onslaught over the last 24 hours is a little disconcerting.

What’s the end game of thousands of people lining up to take turns abusing a group of teenagers? What’s the point of it?

The anger is warranted. The disappointment, more so. The video is dreadful – even if you took the seriousness of coronavirus out of it, it’s just a wall to wall unfunny and bad piece of content – and mingling like that whilst playing on sports teams, working in workplaces and living with families is honestly mind-blowing. Anyone can be affected when everyone doesn’t play by the rules so, understandably, a lot of people have a big piece of their mind to offer.

If you want them to know just how stupid and reckless and selfish they were though, they already know.

They’ve already been told. They have family who were let down, there are sports clubs that have shut down and they’ve apologised to people they’ve impacted. Does that make it right? No, of course it doesn’t but what else do you want? The most important thing is they know how bad it is and there are enough good people who will tell them that.

When you’re making sacrifices for everyone else and, listen, when you’re bunkered down and have had your life change the way 2020 has done for so many people, others blatantly disregarding what’s going on will easily draw an emotional reaction. But if the point you want to make is to tell them why it was all wrong, your point has already been made to them. They know.

Anything outside of that seems not so much a desire to teach them a lesson, rather more just a want to hurt them.

People can use social media how they like, they can react when they’re angry whatever way they want to, but we’re not shouting into a void trying to get the attention of a professional footballer or hoping that the collective noise will fuse to take down a politician, we’re talking about a group of teenagers who are going to be scrolling all night reading exactly what every person all over the country has to say about them.

Take your oil time, you might argue. Good enough for them, you might think, that’s what they need.


What they need is for the people they know and trust to tell them what they did wrong and how stupid it was. What they don’t need is Jimmy from Dundrum calling them a pack of w**kers two days later.

Young people make mistakes. They make big ones and they have to learn harsh lessons along the way to shape who they become. The vast majority of those giving out were fortunate enough to not have to make those mistakes in a time of social media.

And I get it. Covid-19 outbreaks are especially worrying when they’re close to home and they’re definitely frustrating when they’re helped on their tracks by face-licking.

But mass online pile-ons are glaring, too, when they’re close to home.

And this isn’t the product of a chaotic street party in Killarney or madness in D2, it’s a group of young women introducing themselves to the camera, protected by no anonymity or safety in numbers, and exposed for everyone to see.

That would be alright if everyone agreed that they weren’t going to start bullying them.

So, despite the frustration and disbelief at what unfolded, it is important to ask what is the point of posting your anger about what happened – even if it’s just to show your disapproval.

They’re well aware now, even if it’s too late.

Strangers abusing them won’t achieve anything more than really hurting them. And, if that’s the only objective, then that should stop.

Jigsaw – Cybersafety and young people

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