Photo: Anna-Karin Nilsson TT/TV4
In the last 72 hours, something strange happened. I pressed “like” on a picture on social media, which got me some responses. Some were more polite and respectful than others. The reason was because I had pressed “like”on a picture of someone I know, who was making a sincere apology for something terrible that he had done. His name is Paolo Roberto and he had paid for sex the night before and gotten caught in a brothel during a police raid. In his message, he apologises to the shame and hurt he has caught his girlfriend and family. He talks about how he always ends up hurting himself when he gets to a good place in life and that he once and for all needs to heal the dark hole in his soul.
What was so strange was that this is the first time I’ve ever pressed “like” on someone’s picture and had a response to doing so. What was also strange was how angry some of the messages were. The furthest someone took it was to say “By pressing ‘like’ on his picture, you condone his actions”.
I want to make very clear that I certainly don’t condone his actions. I think what he did was terrible.
I also know that if he was not a public person in Sweden, he would most likely have gotten a fine by the police and been faced with the embarrassment and hurt he would have caused his family and that would be it. But because he is, he’s already lost his TV host contracts and I can only presume his other businesses will hurt too. But worst of all, his terrible and embarrassing actions are public. For the whole country to watch, dissect and judge. Anywhere he goes, he will know that people are watching him, talking about him and judging him. Some might even say or shout things at him.
“He deserves it all”, some might say. And the arguments for that are many and long: He’s a role model to many, he carries a bigger responsibility; he’s a public person, he should know better.
The arguments are all true. But he’s also a human being. A human who faults.
One of the questions I got was if I feel sorry for him? The answer is yes, I do feel sorry for him. Of course I feel for his girlfriend, who had no choice in the decision making but who has to hurt publicly. I feel sorry for his children and his family but most of all, I feel sorry for a young girl who has to sell her body. But I feel sorry for Paolo too. Just because you're a public person and successful in business, doesn't mean that you can't be broken on the inside.
“He doesn’t get to wear the victim’s shirt (a Swedish saying I like); he’s NOT the victim. He posts about how he’s hurt and how he hurts himself and needs to change. This isn’t about him!”
Isn’t that where we have to start though? With changing ourselves? Now, words are just that: words. In the end of the day, it’ll all comes down to what he actually does with those words and what he does with the hurt to start working on himself. But everyone deserves at least a chance to better themselves.
I’m not saying that you can’t be angry with him, or disappointed or disgusted. But with time, we also have to forgive. Because if we don’t and we box him in with no ways out, that’s like giving someone the death penalty and as far as I'm aware, that was abolished 1921 in Sweden.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you know that I could have easily not written anything at all. I could have taken my “like” down and I did consider it. I could have not written anything and that would have been the easy way out but sometimes, easy isn’t the right way.
“If he’s Swedish and you’re from Sweden, why didn’t you just write this in Swedish”? Because the phenomena of emotionally charged responses on social media isn’t just a Swedish thing. We see it daily online. Republicans, democrats, Christians, Muslims, Jews - name a topic and you’ll have strong emotional responses. Ultimately, humans are going to have different opinions. What we have to get better at as people is to respect other people’s opinions and try to build constructive dialogue, rather responding with emotional outbursts. By doing so, we open the door for positive debates that will continue to educate, rather than a breakdown in communication. Moreover, we are going to find ourselves with different opinions from time to time and that’s ok too. What’s important to remember is that a difference of opinion or a solution different from that you see, doesn’t mean that the other person is a bad human being.