Diplomatic Notes

Dangers of social media communications

One day while riding with some young people from Miami to Orlando, I noticed that everyone was quiet. I asked, “Why are y’all not talking”. They said, “We are.” Although there was not a sound in the bus. They were talking to each other on their phones despite sitting next to each other. This was a reminder to me that communication has changed in the era of cell phones and social media.

It used to be that your friends were people you worked with or who lived in your neighborhood – but now friends are random people around the world who we have never met and really don’t know – but we consider them friends. Facebook, Instagram or Twitter friends represent a new era in friendships. Can you imagine calling someone a friend but you have never met personally, and having 5,000 friends instead of five friends. Our world has indeed changed.

Sometimes we would have a person’s telephone number, but instead of calling them, we post something on Facebook or Instagram about them. They respond and others join in and take sides of a debate where the protagonists are not talking to each other; they are speaking through Facebook or even WhatsApp.

The dangers in this are multiple. I will share experiences that cured me of Facebook discussions and debates. I remember commenting on a current issue on Facebook and my comments generating a plethora of counter comments. The problem I discovered is that as the original poster, I could no longer control the narrative. Random people were making comments and sending accusations with no element of truth in them; once you put something on social media, you no longer control the narrative. Others who like or dislike you will join others; a conversation that involved two people has morphed into a conversation involving 200 people.

From that point, I decided that I would no longer engage in Facebook discussions. People can insult you, make false accusations, disparage your name – and there is nothing you can do to recover. The truth is irrelevant because social media is not necessarily about truth, it’s about people venting and pushing their agenda.

With that said, I’m sharing advice regarding social media communications.

• If you need to say something to someone – or address an issue – pick up the phone and call them and speak one on one rather than posting something about someone on social media. Sometimes people can call you, but instead of calling you, they send a WhatsApp voice note or Facebook or Instagram post.

What you post on social media can and will be used against you, so be careful of sharing posts or voice notes. You have no control over who will repost or share. Private communication becomes public and you can face embarrassment or even criminal libel.

• Get permission before you repost something or share a voice note. Sometimes private communications end up in the public domain because the receiver did not exercise discretion.

• Be careful of the like and share addiction. Not everything needs to be viral and some things do not need to be shared at all.

• Sometimes it is too late to apologize after someone’s name and reputation has been tarnished through reckless posts.

• Guard your privacy, know what to share and what not to share; know when to post and when not to post.

• You can be legally exposed and prosecuted even if you post something innocently and it unintentionally defames someone’s character.

• Always research and get all the facts straight before posting information on anyone else, the information you post cannot be erased and can be used as evidence against you.

The world has changed, and change can be good or bad, or sometimes good and bad. Today, I post photos and experiences rather than trying to have discussions. I use Facebook for inspirational purposes and never get into Facebook arguments. Facebook discussions cannot be controlled and often does more harm than good. The Bible tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak, so we should apply this to social media communications.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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