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Friday Reflection - Social Media Warrior 03-06-2022

Do you remember when all the kids were on Facebook? They were the ones who grew and sustained the platform during its infancy. Facebook was TikTok for pictures and a catalyst for the selfie phase of human development.

Then the adults arrived, consequently compelling the kids to flee in droves. As the kids fled, the adults started acting worse than the kids ever did when they were on the platform. Here finally, there was a place to air all their grievances, stand on their own soap box and shout to the world, vocally and often viciously support the political leader and party of their choice and yes, display their racism without consequence.

I remember the first interaction I had that was an indicator to me of the fact that people had lost any filter for their thoughts when on Social Media. More than that…Facebook remembers. There is a feature on Facebook that recalls some of your memories from previous posts. It’s a brilliant idea as it re-engages people with the posts that had the most likes, or comments and that – more than likely – meant the most to them. It stirs their nostalgia and keeps them invested in Facebook.

That first interaction I was referring to, was about a young 21-year old truck driver from Brampton who was charged with careless driving after rolling his tractor-trailer off a ramp on Highway 401. While thankfully no one was hurt the conversation on the Facebook news post almost immediately turned to stereotypes and racism. This was not the first time I had encountered racism, but it was the first time I had encountered it online. I was advocating for better truck driver training and even mentorship between experienced and young drivers. Instead, the volleys of vitriol and wrath that was shot at me from my fellow Canadians was astonishing.

No one was seeking options, instead choosing to direct derogatory remarks such as “those people who come here and move to Brampton and bring their third World driving habits with them” and “I don’t mean to be racist, but those people are from a place with donkey carts, what do they know about the rules on Canadian roads.” If you’re wondering, yes, the driver was of East Indian descent and his name was published in the article, so people knew who they were talking about.

That happened in 2015 or seven years ago and now as I recount this to you, my dismay and concern grows, because I have seen this trend of hate and racism online only intensify over those ensuing years.

People are emboldened when they sit behind their keyboards. Their common sense, courtesy and gentility disappear when they do. They make assumption and cast aspersion without fear of retaliation. Free speech they scream. But hate speech is not free speech.

There was a time when the Internet was seen as the last bastion of untamed wilderness available to man. Social Media made full use of that. Replete with fake accounts, people who only want to spread divisiveness, and people who would prefer to see the world burn. Don’t get me wrong. If it weren’t for social media, many people would not be able to stay connected with their families, build their online and physical business and many other things. But the price for this is exceedingly high.

What about you?

What are your thoughts about Social Media?

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