Social media has revolutionized the way we live and like it or not, it’s farfetched to think of our world without it.
Be it Facebook, WhatApp, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest and the lot, we are all users of these new platforms of communication easily accessible on our smartphones or some other smart device.
Within seconds we can share messages of virtually any kind with friends and relatives, employers and business associates, in any part of the globe, as long as we have access to an internet connection, or data.
That’s the beauty of technology overall. Information is at our fingertips and this is a good thing for the most part.
Nothing made this clearer than during the impact of destructive hurricanes Irma and Maria on our Caribbean neighbours last month. Thanks to social media, citizens in affected countries received up-to-the-minute messages to help ensure their safety.
Take for example, Dominica’s prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit, an avid user of social media, who was able to provide the Caribbean and the world with real-time information as Hurricane Maria bore down on his country,
We all knew when Mr Skerrit lost the roof of his home and had to take cover. His subsequent silence on social media was an indication that the situation was dreadful.
But like any good innovation, social media can be used for fair or foul purposes.
On Tuesday, the foul side of social media reared its ugly head.
On the scene of a serious accident at Campaign Castle, St George, where 13-year-old Hannaniah Reeves was struck by a vehicle after disembarking a minibus, some onlookers whipped out their smartphones and proceeded to record the teenager writhing in pain before he was rushed to hospital.
Reeves subsequently succumbed to his injuries. Our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
The death of the teenager was tragic enough, but was made even more painful by the disturbing, intrusive video and photos which made the rounds on social media.
And this is not the first incident.
Time and time again unthinking social media users rush to circulate information that can easily deepen the trauma of grieving families and friends who are forced to deal with sudden, bad news on accident or murder scenes.
On numerous occasions police have appealed to guilty members of the public to stop the senseless practice, but to no avail.
No one should be subjected to the image of an injured human being in such a vulnerable state.
It is disrespectful, insensitive and inhumane, and sensible users of social media should not perpetuate the practice by rapidly sharing the offending images or videos.
Accident scenes are not the only examples of misuse of social media.
During incidents of heavy flooding in Barbados, again idle minds took to posting images and video of worrying scenes that were from past events or not from Barbados at all, presenting them as images of the current conditions.
In the past we have also seen how reckless social media posts charging that water meters installed by the Barbados Water Authority a year ago were responsible for a number of sudden deathshere.
Thankfully, this damaging rumour was ignored by most, but it did cause some concern among some sections of the population.
Social media too has often been used to tarnish people’s reputation.
Worse still, the era of fake news has only but added fire to the crazy practices of the online world.
Social media users have to take greater responsibility for what they publish.
While all and sundry must be afforded the right to express themselves freely, it makes no sense whatsoever for anyone to use a smartphone or a computer to peddle hurtful images, lies or any other information that can affect our societies negatively.
Unfortunately, unruly members of the public continue to do their own thing. This may require our lawmen to step up action beyond warnings to drive home the message that the reckless use of social media will not be tolerated.
Spare a thought for the impact the next time you are about to hit post or send.
Social media is a powerful, useful tool and therefore it must used with caution.
Let us refocus on making it a tool to build up and not tear down.