As part of our #HelloToKindness campaign, we've asked celebrities for their take on the ever-growing problem of trolling, meanness and abuse on social media. Brothers Matt and Luke Goss of 80s boy band Bros – whose honest documentary Bros: After the Screaming Stops was the surprise cult hit of the winter – dropped into the HELLO! office to share their views on the problem. Now living in America, Matt a successful singer with a residency in Las Vegas and Luke a Hollywood actor, the stars spoke candidly about their own experiences of online abuse and why they're calling for new legislation to protect social media users.
Bros chat about our new campaign - and why they're joining it
"Me and Luke have certainly been the recipients of negative comments and it's exhausting. It's exhausting," Matt told us. "You really have to develop a thick skin. Neither Luke nor I have a thick skin, and I am less tolerant of it than Luke at times."
"I think it's got to a point where kindness has become unhip, which is absurd," says Luke." I think it's very, very important we realise that we're in a common condition, which is called life and there's ups and downs, there's struggles, there's hardships - financially, emotionally, we lose people. [Online abuse] won't change without a communal contribution and we have to all commit to a change. We should make it almost an unacceptable thing and not tolerate abuse. Sometimes I wish those keyboard warriors would be right in front of me." He adds: "It's social abuse. It's not social media anymore."
Matt agrees: "It's extremely cowardly as well. Most of these accounts, they don't even show their picture. I do think there needs to be some recourse. There needs to be some consequence for abuse online. Because if you go up to somebody and you abuse them in public, that's an offence. There needs to be clearer lines, a definitive law. I've had some things said to me that I can't even imagine thinking these words." He adds: "Nobody knew that this medium would exist 20 years ago, so therefore there are no laws to protect people from, as Luke said, this social environment."
Bros back in the 80s
Matt asks if it's easier to write something negative and destructive or if it's simpler to say a nice comment, which can brighten a person's day. "It's not much more complicated than that to me," he says. "I do not understand how you could muster up anything negative about somebody that you don't know."
Luke tells us that negativity on social media is making him reconsider whether he wants to keep his accounts open. He explained: "I'm not thick-skinned enough to weather it very well. It hurts me. I'm finding it harder and harder, truthfully, to justify social media in my life. I'm an inch, if less than than an inch, away from saying 'I'm done'.
"I'm torn at the moment, because of the abuse and because of how rude people can be. It's not that it affects me - I'm used to criticism - but I have to say, when it's personal, when it's vile, when there's profanities involved… I ask myself, I'm partaking in this, why? So I think for me, unless it does change and people say 'no, we insist upon at least civility', I'll probably be coming off social media."
Matt told us how online abuse affects him, revealing: "You have to look at anyone's page - not just mine or my brother's - it's an extension of your life. You're literally coming into my living room or my kitchen… you're coming into my life. It's not so much how it makes me feel any more. It's how much I must be aware of what I must avoid. Why would you want to avoid your living room or your kitchen or your home or when you're out at dinner? Remember with social media, other people can see your living space, so your page also belongs to a lot of other people."
He adds: "I don't think it's about shaming people into being kind. I think there has to be consequences for people because I believe mean people are going to continue. There has to be definitive lines of consequence within the law in this particular medium. It's a big thing to say, but I do believe that governing bodies have to make very, very firm decisions about law."
Luke says of our #HelloToKindness campaign: "I think this is a fantastic campaign that you're doing because we have to collectively as a community say 'no, we won't tolerate this'". He continues: "Just because something has shown up in our lives, doesn't necessarily mean we can't all amend it and say 'it needs to be seriously reinvented' - which is what you're doing."
Matt says: "This might actually encourage people in power to make changes, and [social media] a safer place to be."
BROS are coming ‘home’ to South London to play a very special show at O2 Academy Brixton on Friday 5 July 2019. Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
Make a stand. Say #HelloToKindness. Post your own kind message on Instagram today.