My take? So long as you can remain one step removed from it, and don't let it become a replacement for a real life, social media shows us another side of who we are, filtered through tweets and Instagram posts. But... it's just one side - we're never going to get the whole picture of a person from their online persona.
Oddly, it's something I've really become aware of in the past few years. There are people I've met - YouTubers and their ilk - who are completely different in real life to how I perceived them from their public profile. We're complicated, multifaceted, beings, and just because someone might one day act a bit dickish online doesn't mean they are a dick.
We're not any one thing; who we are is a mix of our inner and outer selves, and... well... this is all getting a bit wanky.
One of the knock-on effects of social media is that we are now given unprecedented access to public figures. Back in the 70s, a showbiz nonce could operate under the radar. We never got a look at the day-to-day lives of our idols; now they can Instagram their toilet business, should they so wish.
They can also display their sensitivity, volatility, their insecurities, and have a momentary emotional reaction frozen for posterity, because they let their guard down long enough to share it publicly. And then they can end up forever being judged for it.
For better or worse, celebrities - who, like the rest of us, are quite, quite flawed - are able to put any passing thought into a Tweet and boot it out into the world.
Thoughts from a decade back can be dredged up and used to judge a person as they are today. And judge we do, because it makes us feel a bit better about our own flaws. It gives a sense of power to beat down a public figure - and the bigger they are the bigger the dopamine hit when we're able to revel in their failings.
Which brings me to this; is it possible to separate art from the artist?
You see, I was very excited when I heard that there was a new Earthworm Jim game on the way, even if it was in development for that weird new Intellivision console.
Then I read about it, and that led me down a rabbit hole where I discovered that Doug TenNapel - creator of Earthworm Jim, who'll be involved with the new game - has a history of homophobic remarks (and also, in the past, wrote for right-wing news outlet Breitbart).
I had no idea about any of this until recently; had I not known it, I'd have bought a new Earthworm Jim quite happily... and now I'm not sure I will.
Wait. No. Scratch that. It's not about will - that implies it's some moral choice. It's more that I'm not sure I can. My enjoyment of it would be too coloured by what I have read about the game's creator. But is that right? How many albums, or games, or movies have I enjoyed without knowing that the people who made them had some dubious lifestyles or opinions?
I mean, take Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. He has a long history of controversy (including allegations of stealing money from employees and physical assault). Most recently, he tweeted out a video of a cat being attacked by a crab (no, really), and when this received the inevitable public outcry, he claimed he'd merely been "curious" to see how people would react.
It was a social experiment all along!!!
Pitchford has worked on some of my favourite franchises; Half-Life, Duke Nukem, Borderlands... In this instance, ignorance would've been bliss, but now those games are tainted for me. Is it wrong to want to hold public people to such high ideals? Is it wrong to be so crushed when they fail to live up to our expectations?!
And then there's ProJared. I admit, I'd never even heard of ProJared until people on my timeline started tweeting about him. Now all I know about ProJared is that he's some guy who probably cheated on his wife, and had set up a weird, creepy, message board where he and his fans could swap nudes.
He has all but disappeared from public life since posting a statement from a few weeks back alleging that his wife was abusive, and he acted in a pervy way with her full blessing.
This sort of unprecedented access is great in so many ways; there's a level of transparency and accountability that there never was in the past. Of course, having that also allows it to be exploited by a mob mentality. This isn't intended to be a defence, but often when the mob descends, it's typically based upon the tip of an iceberg that we can see; we never get the backstory, the motivations, the inner world...
The mob gains its own momentum based upon hearsay. We get the signal and swarm over someone like ants stripping the flesh from a dead gecko.
We see and know more than ever about celebrities... but we still never have the full picture. It's all too easy to bring someone down with an allegation, by letting them be tried by the court of public opinion. There's this whole "cancel culture" we're now living in, and there but for the grace go any of us. Frankly, it scares the heck out of me, because we're all wired to think 'No smoke without fire'... and I'm as guilty of it as anybody.
I'll probably never listen to another Morrissey album again, and I don't think I can even bring myself to listen to The Smiths.
Ryan Adams - whose music I loved - I haven't played since stories broke about him. Graham Linehan has become such an obsessively transphobic bully that I could never again watch something he'd written. My favourite comics artist from when I was growing up has expressed some views that trouble me... though I still follow him on Twitter, because - thus far - those views are political, and as far as I can tell he doesn't openly support a far-right political party.
But, again, no smoke without fire - right? - and it has unquestionably soured how I view his work; art that I loved so much as a teenager that I copied some of it to paint a mural on my bedroom wall, at an age when I never had such a window onto his opinions and thoughts.
Don't get me wrong; I don't immediately dissociate from all people who have different political leanings to me. If I did that I'd never see much of my family again, and I'd lose several friends who I like very much. I also think it's important not to live in a bubble, and to listen to views from elsewhere.
One of my favourite people in the world is a pro-Brexit, Boris supporting, Trump-lover - but that's not the entirety of who he is.
Obviously, I'd not want to be his friend anymore if I found out he was a bit nonce-y, but I do think that often on social media we're not seeing the truth of a person, because the truth of a person can't be contained in a tweet. It's easier to judge someone because we're not seeing that, maybe, they actually have a lot of positive attributes too. Like I say... we're complex.
What's more, we all need to be allowed to make mistakes. I was incredibly disappointed when James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 over his decade-old "jokes" (but could also see that Disney had no choice). And then when he was reinstated, I was glad that the signal was being sent that we all move on.
In an ideal world, we screw-up, and then we learn from those mistakes, and we become a better person. Gawd knows, I think I'm a better person than I was ten years ago, when I was going through an extremely tough time, and it all manifested in behaviour that certainly could have been - and probable was - viewed as dickish, rather than the actions of somebody who was flailing.
I'm just glad I wasn't on Twitter back then, and had the sense to step away when I finally realised I'd hit rock bottom.
But it all brings us round to whether we should separate art from artist, and there's a huge red alert in that question: the word "should".
Again, it comes back to whether we "can". In many of the cases above, I just can't. It's how I'm wired. I can't listen to Ryan Adams now without wondering what else he was getting up to while recording said record.
That's about me, rather than him; when I'm looking at the artwork of my favourite comics artist, I'm paranoid that I'll somehow subliminally absorb his politics. Which is ludicrous given that I have friends with right-wing views - but, again, with them I can see more of who they are, because I'm not peering through the pinhole of social media, and basing my entire opinion of a person on one tiny sliver of them.
So... I dunno. It's something I struggle with constantly. I really want to play a new Earthworm Jim game, but I don't think I can.
Who loses out most in that equation - me or Doug TenNapel?