DO you remember when social media was a platform for lively community discussion and nuanced debate? Nah, me neither.

While I have hazy memories of social media in its heyday, a place where I forged friendships and sought reading recommendations, it’s hard to disagree with the assertion that it’s become a bit of a cesspool.

This was backed up by the launch of Instagram’s latest feature – a pop-up message which asks users: “Are you sure you want to post that?” Designed to curb cyber-bullying among young people, a clever bot has been programmed to sniff out inflammatory comments and offer one final chance to reconsider their disparaging remarks before pressing send.

The feature is well-meaning, even if it seems unlikely to deter teenagers from social media mudslinging. What was utterly depressing to me was how this warning seemed applicable to plenty of people decades too old to blame their aggressive online presence on adolescent inexperience. Most days, I’d put money on the kids being better behaved.

Unsurprisingly, the cyber-bullying epidemic isn’t confined to young people. A recent study found one in four adults in the UK had experienced some form of online harassment. Facebook, the same research showed, was the most common platform for abuse, closely followed by Twitter.

The rise of online anger started harmlessly enough. People used the internet to vent everyday frustrations and social media became the perfect outlet to bemoan train delays, bad restaurant service and a disappointing finale of your favourite TV show. But, somewhere along the way, the landscape shifted, and social media became a digital battleground. The notion of a grey area gave way to two sides – each unwilling to be convinced they are anything less than 100% right – paving the way for a couple of egg avatars to argue bitterly to the death (or, at least, until one admits defeat by blocking the other).

Now, on the same platforms that I once made pals, grown men and women use the anonymity of the internet to spout the sort of bile most wouldn’t dare utter aloud. Even with a modest number of followers, I have been on the receiving end of everything from taunts about my writing to lewd comments about my appearance and one decidedly sinister threat to wait outside my place of work and rape me.

Do we really need a social media bot to tell us to watch our mouths? Well, it seems, yes. But the fact that a tool designed to prevent kids from trading playground insults online can also be applied to the way adults communicate online is pathetic, really.

We should be better than this and ashamed that we’re not.