A reality of living in the current age of social media is our daily exposure to the good, bad and ugly, often in shocking and graphic detail in both words and images, no matter where on earth it has occurred. Barbadians, fascinated with smart phones and other modern communication technologies, are actively involved in this global exchange of information.
Given the omnipresence and the possibility of intrusion by social media in our daily lives, personal privacy, which was once jealously guarded, effectively no longer exists, certainly not as it was traditionally understood. Everyone is a possible target for exposure on social media. There are negatives and positives to this development, depending on the perspective from which the issue is examined.
An example of the negative side of social media would be its use for the dissemination of a video of a young lady in her most intimate moments by a former boyfriend who deliberately does so to cause her embarrassment because the two have broken up. It is especially worse if the young lady was videotaped without her knowledge.
Even though she may have recourse for remedy under the law, it does not negate the emotional and psychological damage. Another example of the negative use of social media is the widespread and insensitive practice of disseminating the gory videos of the victims of shootings and motor vehicle accidents, despite the obvious pain this can cause to grieving relatives.
On the other hand, an example of the good side of social media, would be a case of the dissemination of a video showing someone engaged in an unlawful act that subsequently leads to the arrest and prosecution of the culprit, especially in cases that offend public sensibilities. An obvious case would be child abuse which was previously a hidden secret in many instances.
In recent weeks, Barbadians would have been exposed to one such case that reportedly occurred in Jamaica. The video showed an almost naked mother in the act of beating a 12-year-old daughter with the side of a cutlass and hurling expletives. What was shocking about this video was the sheer brutality. Imagine the greater harm which could have been caused if the angry mother, who seemed out of control, had lost her grip and the blade, rather than the side, had struck the child.
Regardless of what the child had done, she did not deserve such barbaric treatment. After the video went viral, the mother was picked up and detained by the police. What is ironic about this case is that the child, in a subsequent interview with a local radio station, appeared to endorse the punishment. She described her mother as “one of the best … I know in the world” and expressed displeasure with the individual who videotaped the incident.
Were it not for social media, her plight might never have come to public attention which must be viewed as a positive. Heaven knows how times the child may have previously endured similar brutal beatings. Hopefully, she will receive counselling and other interventions from the professionals that will help her to see that punishment of this kind is not normal.
Another shocking video which made the rounds on social media recently showed a young, reportedly Grenadian girl in a “cuss-out” with an adult. At such a tender age, this child has clearly demonstrated that her vocabulary of expletives is rather wide. One is left to wonder if she can also demonstrate similar mastery of mainstream language which is crucial to her success in school. Perhaps not!
What was particularly sad about this incident is that an adult who was apparently doing the recording was heard saying that he was going to post the “cuss out” on Facebook instead of intervening to correct the child. Effective guidance from responsible adults, not just their parents, is necessary if children are to acquire to the right values to develop into good citizens. For every child whose bad behaviour is condemned, there is an adult who has failed in his or her duty.
Social media platforms are here to stay. While they have undoubtedly brought some value in advancing free expression, more effective regulation is needed to counter abuse. Traditional media should not rush to emulate social media. They are not the same animals. By continuing to place emphasis on the responsible practice of journalism of the highest standard, traditional media need not to be overly worried about social media. The two can co-exist in the same space in different but, wherever possible, complementary roles.