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EDITORIAL: Social media out of hand

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Social media out of hand

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FOR ALL ITS benefits, and they are many, social media platforms have become a haven for people who seem to give no thought to the hurt they cause others, while proudly hiding in the anonymity of some self-generated sobriquet.

And under the circumstances we can’t but support the overall position of Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss that something must be done about people who use social media to “deliberately spew filth”. Based on what is happening globally, however, we doubt authorities have the wherewithal to do much about it  and this is unfortunate.

Within recent times we have seen circulating all kinds of stories about prominent persons in the society about how they might have acquired their wealth, their sexual preferences, how they conduct their professional business and so much more, all being offered as incontrovertible facts by people who are not prepared to associate their names or faces with their pronouncements.

In each instance these “posts” trigger an avalanche of attacks on the individuals named and lengthy online “discussions”, which we are certain most of those involved would never venture to offer in person in a public place.

And it gets worse, where even in cases of tragedy people who we assume should know better, care nothing for the old adage that admonishes us not to speak evil of the dead. Only on Good Friday last, the island recorded another road fatality, an event we are sure is still deeply painful to the loved ones of the 17-year-old victim. Yet, before the blood had dried we had other young people tearing to shreds the name of the teenage girl who died.

It’s wrong, just plain wrong and inhumane. But perhaps we need to look at this social media phenomenon in a different way. Perhaps it is not about Facebook or the blogs at all as these are mere vehicles  albeit with mind-boggling speed, reach and capacity to inflict pain. It is really about the kinds of societies we cultivate in which our natural inclination to tear down and destroy appears to be so much stronger that any natural tendency to love and help.

Just look at what happens any time a young mother, at her wits end, believes she has no choice but to ask for public assistance with food or some other necessity. She becomes an instant magnet for attack  why has she so many children, why different fathers, why can’t she find a job, has she never heard of contraceptives? Then there will be those who suddenly know every piece of her history and feel obligated to make it public while using some of the most vile terms to tell the story; and but for a few, no one will offer help. Even though all the questions may be
legitimate, none of it speaks to the woman’s plight or that of her children and none of the discussion needs to take place in full public glare.

Minister Inniss is absolutely right, we have to do something, but that “we” should apply to every adult in our community, because each of these social media sobriquets is followed by “friends” and real friends used to know when to tell those with whom they associate that they are wrong. “Friends” used to be able to tell each other that “love covers a multitude of sins”; that the most important rule you can live by is The Golden Rule  do unto others as you would have them do
unto you.

Oh, and they were never afraid to shout: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Yes, we really have to do something.