Twitter can be an unfriendly place at times. And hate-filled, knife-edged tweets spat out by ‘trolls’ are just downright evil. We’ve all heard of the campaigns of Twitter-terror that, in certain cases, have ended in prosecution and even jail-time for the aggressor. So to learn that the three most liked tweets of all time were ones of tolerance and love is a win for Twitter and a win for humanity.
When journalist Caroline Criado-Perez supported a campaign to put Jane Austin on the £10 note, she was sent threats of rape. MP Stella Creasey has also received rape threats and been branded a ‘witch’. Homophobic abuse has been flung at diver Tom Daley. Madeline McCann’s parents have received a plethora of abusive tweets over the years. The list of victims of these repulsive trolls could go on for a long time.
It is a pleasant surprise, therefore, to hear that the three tweets Barack Obama posted about tolerance, love and acceptance in the wake of Charlottesville have been the most ‘liked’ in the platform’s history. Seven million people have liked the tweets, in which Obama quoted a passage from Nelson Mandela’s book, Long Walk to Freedom.
This first tweet read ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.’ This was followed by, ‘People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love’. And then, ‘For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’
Obama reminded us of Mandela’s powerful insight into love and tolerance as a response to the recent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered to protest about the removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee from a park in the city, burning torches and brandishing Nazi banners. The ugly scene soon escalated into one of terror when a man drove a car into a group of peaceful, anti-fascist campaigners, murdering civil rights campaigner Heather Heyer and injuring others.
Nelson Mandela’s formidable words are still as relevant today as when Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1994. The fact Obama’s timely reminder has received the most Twitter love ever (surpassing the 2.7 million likes amassed by Arianna Grande’s tweet after the Manchester bombing), shows us that messages of love and unity are much stronger than those of hate – on Twitter and in the real world. As long as we all remember to keep sharing such messages, in the same manner as Obama, the hateful bile spewed out by mindless trolls will never be allowed to triumph.