I probably shouldn’t be saying this in the paper, but it never ceases to amaze me in these times of social media and text messaging and whatever the app is that lets you send sexy pictures of yourself which disappear after three seconds, that people still write letters to the editor.

Despite the fact that these days you can barely get anyone’s attention without a hashtag or a meme or a video of Hitler ranting ironically about something, many people still go to the trouble of writing (often with actual pen and paper) to the newspaper to share their opinions.

I tend to think of newspapers’ letters’ pages as a bit of an oddity, an anachronistic quirk for people who don’t know how to use Twitter. Until this week I certainly didn’t think they could actually make a difference to anything.

And then along came Ruth Trinkle of Lobethal.

In case the name doesn’t ring any bells (which is rather ironic, because it sounds a bit like a bell itself), Ruth Trinkle is co-owner of the Lobethal Bakery, and on Wednesday night she accidentally shot to internet fame when her letter to the Mount Barker Courier went viral.

“I am so sad to see what comes across to me as your active promotion of the homosexuality campaign,” she wrote.

“I buy The Courier for my customers to read in our shop. I will stop buying the paper out of protest.

“The majority of the Hills community is Christian and my customers will be offended to read articles promoting gay (sic) and lesbians.”

Sadly Ms Trinkle didn’t explain which article she believed to be “promoting homosexuality”, so I had a look through a few recent editions of the Courier to work it out. All I could find were a few stories about a rainbow flag at Alexandrina Council, and a TV listing for “Secrets of the Gay Sauna” on ABC 2. Oh, and a piece on an exhibition by a local artist called Janette Gay — maybe that was it?

Whatever it was, it got Ms Tinkle upset enough to boycott the paper, and she wrote to tell them so.

Unfortunately for her, a letter to the editor is no longer just a one way communication, which was demonstrated when one Hills resident took a photo of her words and shared them on Facebook. Within hours the letter had been plastered over social media amid howls of condemnation, and a “Boycott Lobethal Bakery” page was set up, attracting more than 2300 fans.

Back in the day, a letter in the community paper would have been seen by a handful of readers. Now thanks to social media, it can be turned into a conversation, or a debate - or a bunfight, as it were.

Many believe this new media climate shuts down “alternative” voices; just this week Senator Cory Bernardi argued as much in his marriage equality debate with Senator Penny Wong, claiming his opinions were being shouted down by a “vocal minority”. (Never mind that his “alternative” voice is the one backed by federal law, and the “minority” is actually about 72 per cent of the population).

I’d argue that thanks to social media, alternative voices are being heard louder than ever before.

As I know all too well from writing this column every week, if you’re going to air your views publicly, you’d better be prepared for others to air theirs back at you.

Just as Ms Trinkle had a right to share her opinion in the paper, everyone else now has a right — and the ability — to give her finger buns the finger.

First published in The Advertiser, August 1, 2015