Remember when you were back at school and somebody would tell you a story and then tell you not to tell anyone else? Of course, human nature is inherently tribal and so whilst you’d swear to keep the secret, there was invariably at least one other person that you “trusted with your life” so you’d tell them. That person also had another trusted person. . . and very quickly that private conversation wasn’t so private anymore.

Most of us as children belonged to a “secret club” with our “best friends”, where we’d share stories of our futures, of how we’d change the world and sometimes even stories of our concerns and worries.

These days of course those ‘stories’ or ‘plans’ or ‘ideas’ can very quickly be shared with everyone via social media, and it’s that rapid sharing of information that’s created a petri dish of rumours and indeed misinformation that somehow when written down on Twitter, or shared via a video on TikTok somehow becomes fact.

The rumours in the petri dish are cultured within echo chambers of positive affirmation and binary thinking. Somehow we’ve lost all sense of nuance, discussion, debate, disagreement and therefore personal growth. Add to this a political culture where it’s hard to find anybody that has faith in the government. So whatever our political beliefs we’ve all somehow become sceptical.

The result is quickly becoming evident. Ridiculous conspiracy theories taking hold really quickly dividing society into the believers and non-believers, the woke and the knowing. Throw in some faux concerns by a government desperate to deflect from a failing and indeed flailing society, amplified by a mainstream media eager to maintain the status quo and it’s turning into quite the human experiment isn’t it?

Whilst those of us of a certain age lived through this manipulated division in the 80’s the addition of social media and a world healing from a pandemic has really turned this into a terrifyingly fascinating time to be alive.

Over the past week a few secondary schools have seen their pupils holding mass protests over various things. Now this isn’t new to 2023, back in the 80’s I remember myself and my fellow pupils at the local comp having a protest over something or another. Whilst I can’t recall the catalyst for the protest, I can remember the feeling of empowerment when it became obvious that the teachers couldn’t actually stop what was happening. Indeed it’s a stark reminder of why we need respected authority figures and laws to hold boundaries.

As the only people that would have heard about our 1985 riot though were the people that read our local paper, the protest never really caught on. This week on TikTok however I’ve seen at least 10 other accounts suddenly start up from various schools around the UK planning ‘their’ protest. No longer needing to rely on hushed conversations to spread the word a whole school can be informed of the action within minutes. Indeed this is the very reason why cyber bullying is so effective. What I found particularly interesting and indeed concerning though were the blatantly right-wing, fascist handles that were amplifying these accounts. The same accounts that spew their daily vitriol against the “immigrants” were now supporting the school children planning a protest.

I was reminded of the more recent school protest where the students powerfully protested about the fact that a black teenager was stripped searched by the police. The speeches were powerful and well constructed, making much-needed points that deserved a hearing. Now compare that to the videos of this week where I’ve failed to find one speech within the protest – just a joy in the anarchy of destruction.

I think that we’re incredibly lucky in this country to still have the right to protest (even though the Tories are really trying to take that away from us). However, in this brave new world, we need to be vigilant of the “protests” that say nothing getting amplified by hate groups who are (ironically) grooming our young people. An amplified post with hundreds of shares and likes has the potential to be the carrot that entices some of our more disenfranchised young people toward an echo chamber of hate and intolerance.

Given the long reach of influencers such as Andrew Tate on our young people, I really don’t think that my fears on this one are unfounded.

Passing on a whispered rumour was never reliable, you might recall that was the fun of the game that we all used to play at school. Passing on an already warped reality combined with the thought that a protest just means destruction doesn’t really bear thinking about.