COLUMN: Let’s return decency to social media behaviour

Social media.

Let’s, for the moment, put aside the fact that social media sites have repeatedly and knowingly violated the public trust.

RELATED: Facebook admits no wrongdoing but will pay $5 billion in fines

And let’s forget that they’ve allowed companies (including the Royal Bank of Canada) the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages, or that they’ve been credibly accused of secretly harvesting personal health data. Let’s forget that Facebook has made the decision to knowingly allow outright lies in political ads and that they have been linked to allowing false posts that led to a genocide in Myanmar.

All of these things should give us pause, of course, but perhaps they’re too global to resonate with those folks intent on posting a picture of lunch on social media. After all, who cares about the Rohingya genocide when you’re trying to get that perfect shot of your fettuccine Alfredo?

But even if one doesn’t give a fig about those global concerns, there are local issues regarding social media that should give us pause.

Last month, following a (sort of) lockdown at Sooke’s high school, the RCMP issued an appeal to residents to stop posting nonsense on social media. They pointed out police investigations rely on first-hand information and that posts that, without foundation, spread gossip about weapons and threats “do nothing but stoke fear in the public.”

Related: RCMP ask people to stop spreading gossip

Then there was the case last week when a Williams Lake search and rescue volunteer expressed his disgust at motorists who were holding out cellphones as they passed an accident site, trying to get video or photos of the victim of a fatal crash where an elderly woman lost her life.

He called it disrespectful to the victim and distressing to those professionals who were dealing with the situation.

No kidding.

RELATED: Disrespectul motorists

And don’t forget how last year Mayor Lisa Helps of Victoria was pilloried for posting that she wanted to turn churches into mosques and that she wanted to spend $21 million to convert all the city’s crosswalks to rainbow crosswalks.

Of course, Helps didn’t write those posts. Her account had been spoofed, but because the public has a short attention span, those posts are doubtlessly still being re-posted and there are going to be people out there who still believe them to be true.

RELATED: Lisa Helps breaks up with Facebook

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should delete their social media accounts, although I certainly made that decision years ago. I know that particular ship has sailed and too many people have become addicted to endless stream of dross offered by social media platforms, local blogs, and even faux news sites.

I am, however, suggesting that it’s time turn back the clock just enough to revive some basic decency and tamp down our basest inclinations.

It’s never OK to make false statements just for the hell of it.

It’s not acceptable to invade people’s privacy or harass others because you can hide behind the anonymity of social media handles.

Forty years ago, I taught my children that it wasn’t acceptable to say things about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Gossip was not acceptable, lying was a bad thing and the respect of other’s privacy was what separated us from lesser beings.

Those rules still apply.

Lets apply them to social media and, if you’re still on platforms where those rules are not followed, ask yourself why.

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