STYLE

Has X Factor Turned Us Into A Nation Of Bullies?

11/11/2011 13:57 | Updated 22 May 2015

Last week, Jesy Nelson, the 20-year-old singer from X-Factor girl band Little Mix, was reduced to tears thanks to mean comments about her weight that appeared on Twitter.

"People are writing a few nasty comments and it has just got to me a little bit," she said to camera.

"When you've got your own insecurities and then when people go and tell you and write them on websites for everyone to see, it just makes you feel really rubbish.

"Being in a girl group with three beautiful girls who are a lot slimmer and smaller than me... And obviously I know I'm a lot bigger. I find it really hard when people publicise it on Twitter."

By Saturday night's show, it was Frankie Cocozza who was in the firing line. Days later he was kicked out of the competition for 'breaking the rules' amid allegations that he'd been bragging to production staff about taking cocaine.

Have The X-Factor and Twitter turned us all into judges?Photo: PA

Tellingly, Frankie has said that his life had "gone out of control" while taking part in the show.

Is that because he felt he had to work the bad boy swagger that first impressed the judges, or because being booed by a live audience, slated in the press and slagged off Twitter is enough to make any 17-year-old lose the plot?

His mentor, Gary Barlow, seems to think so.

"We have all encouraged Frankie not only to be good but to be bad as well,' he said.

"I read messages, whether they were online, in the newspaper or on Twitter and they were all telling him he is not good enough.

"And the audience booed him on Saturday so I can kind of see where his life has led to in the last seven days and I don't feel good about it at all and I don't think anyone who has contributed to it should."

Regardless of what you think about Frankie, it seems to me that reality TV has turned us all into judges, and social media has given us the means to express opinions that would be better off kept to ourselves.

Thanks to shows like X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, passing judgement on other people has become a national sport.

We've had a few years to learn from the master, Simon Cowell, and now we've got the hang of it there's just no stopping us.

Yes, I think we've all heard the argument that celebrities have a duty to put up with any negative attention they get because it's all part of the job.

Most of the time that's fair enough: you can't please all the people all the time and not everyone is going to be a fan.

But these kids aren't celebrities; they've catapulted themselves straight into the spotlight at a point in their lives when they're at their most self-conscious and vulnerable. More to the point, they're not simply learning how to deal with a bad review, they're being subjected to the type of barbed personal criticism that most mature adults would find hard to swallow.

And, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we all have a direct line to tell them exactly what we think of them, as often as we like - even those of us who are old enough to know better.

Maybe things have changed since I was a teenager, but I know that I spent far too much time worrying about what people thought of me.

Fortunately, I had very little opportunity to find out: then, as now, we were quite reluctant to say hurtful - or brutally honest - things to people's faces.

But these days school bullies, best frenemies or even total strangers only have to log into Facebook or Twitter, where it's easy to spread nasty rumours, post unflattering pictures or write mean comments without having to think about the consequences.

Just imagine how it feels to check your account only to be confronted with comments about your weight, your appearance and your sex life - as well as your talent, or lack thereof.

Or perhaps you don't have to imagine. Anyone who has a blog has probably discovered that the world is full of people on a mission to tell you that you're rubbish.

Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise. These days most TV shows have their own #hashtag, which positively encourages us to take to Twitter to show our support.

Of course, the flip side to this is that we also get the opportunity to stick the knife in.

It's all too easy to fire off a tweet without taking a minute to register the fact that our mean-spirited musings are directed at a real person.

And it's a safe bet that most of us wouldn't want to step out from behind our screens and say these things out loud - which is precisely why a number of online sites no longer allow anonymous reader comments.

We've all heard the old saying: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

So maybe it's about time we took the same approach to what we're tweeting.

Why not make a point of keeping the mean comments within the confines of your own living room, because last time I checked - unless you're being paid Simon Cowell's salary for your trouble - sitting in judgement isn't the most fulfilling way to spend your time.

Crafting the perfect putdown might get you lots of retweets, but it won't win you any friends.

And sooner or later someone's going to take a minute - and 140 characters - to tell you that nobody likes you as a result.

By Ceri Roberts

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