When Coun. Kerrie Reay spoke of the concerning (and growing) waves of negativity brewing in Sooke’s social media circles during Monday’s council meeting, deathly silence filled the chamber.
And not because nobody knew what she was talking about; on the contrary, everyone has, at one point or another, been witness to, or participated themselves in countless posts on social media that berated a specific individual or organization.
More so, Reay pointed out the overwhelming lack of personal responsibility and respect for others online in recent months, often taking the form of reactive and nasty commentary.
Let us remember that social media is like a hammer, or a handgun: it’s a tool that can be used to help or harm someone. And like any tool, it takes responsibility to use it. Derogatory and unfounded posts or pages on Facebook for example, while very easy to create, can damage someone’s reputation and create unnecessary mass hysteria through misinformation.
As such, social media posts can still be used in legal cases and an individual can suffer the full severity of libel law as a result, which is why it’s important to first think before posting something online or taking up the role as a citizen journalist.
Not surprising, really, when the Times Colonist and Toronto Star decided to shut down their comments sections. Despite public outrage, the move certainly wasn’t a stab at free speech or democracy, but simply taking away a platform that allows hateful commentary to flow freely.
But does it have to come to lawsuits and heavy regulation of social media to get our heads straight?
No, it doesnt. Just as much as we have the power to use social media to help each other out and provide support from across the globe, we can be respectful and mindful of each other online, regardless of how strong our personal view is.
Open discussion, online or otherwise, is about advancing the issue, not creating it, after all, social media needs no instruction manual, just common sense.