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Avoiding The Dark Side of Social Media

Updated on June 8, 2016

It is lots of fun to use social media, but at the same time, it can be very dangerous. It gives us a channel to talk about our feelings, vent about current issues, communicate with old friends and stay up to date with what they are doing, among other things. It becomes dangerous when social media ends up costing us our jobs, relationships and family. It is that part that I’m going to focus on today.

We are drawn to social media because of its instant and wide reach that has the potential to reach millions of people within a short space of time. It is a great way to start campaigns and spread general positivity. On the flip-side of this, however, it also has the potential to spread negativity. The fact that the information spreads so quickly means that once something is posted, the chances of that information disappearing is minimal.

There have been many examples of people getting into trouble because of what they have posted. We find that these people are usually public figures whom we scrutinise on a daily basis, but sometimes it is the average person that can receive instant notoriety because of a hateful, or even clumsy, social media post.

These posts usually include racism, sexism, religious slurs - the list goes on. The reason for this is usually narrow-mindedness, but the fact that people think they can get away with these kinds of posts is simple – they think that their “friends” or “followers” share their sentiments. The problem for them arrives when just one person who reads their post gets offended and exposes that post. It is easy to save the post, even if the original poster deletes it, by using a “screen shot”. This saves the post as an image and images can spread extremely quickly on social media. Before you know it, that post has reached millions of people and the original poster is immediately defined as what they have posted about. In South Africa, for example, a woman by the name of Penny Sparrow, a real estate agent, recently compared black people to monkeys. That post went viral almost immediately. She is now a pariah and when her name is mentioned it is usually in the same sentence as racist and bigot. Whether or not she is indeed a racist, I do not know. That post is my only frame of reference to her character and based on that, she is a racist.

As a human being you are of course entitled to your views and opinions, but once those views infringe on someone else, the chances are that you are going to be called out on it and land yourself in some trouble.

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