When online posts go too far
Welcome to the first installment of my six part series on everything that’s wrong with local Facebook groups, including ours in Sun Peaks. Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to you. But I could.
What can be a great tool for connecting people and being a positive force for the community can also turn extremely negative. While I could make several points about these groups’ negative influence on modern communication, one theme has been consistent over the past few months: shaming, especially drivers.
I understand the anger and frustration that comes when you’re made to feel unsafe on the road as well as the consequences when a near miss actually hits a target. However, there are other ways to deal with these situations than hastily posting on social media.
Identifying and cursing out a person, encouraging others to seek them out, threatening them bodily harm or blackmailing them is not ok. It’s taking shaming to the point of bullying. Your words and threats can have unintended consequences, even if you had the best of intentions.
Why shame a neighbour on an online forum when you could approach them and let them know what they did was not cool. I can guarantee taking the time to seek someone out and have an actual conversation will have 10 times more positive impact on the situation, on the other person’s driving habits and the way you feel. It’s been proven that negative written discourse simply breeds more negativity and misunderstanding.
It might take more effort than whipping out your phone and writing some dramatic words but you’ll get longer term satisfaction than all the vindicating likes and comments you’re seeking. Why not set a positive example and reach out to solve problems?
If the incident was that serious and illegal and you have the identifying information you need, why not just go to the police? Report it and let justice take its course.
If there has been a serious incident and witnesses are needed for prosecution then by all means ask your online community for help. But it needs to be done in a straightforward manner: a short description, time, place and contact information is all that is needed.
If there’s an ongoing issue an area such as speeding or lack of signage then perhaps there are other steps that should be taken with municipal, regional or provincial governing bodies. Social media can be helpful in these situations but taking an individual to task online without all the information isn’t productive.
Unfortunately, there’s a lack of media literacy among users despite the amount of time we all spend interacting on these mediums. Asking a group of your peers to be judge, jury and executioner doesn’t work, especially when they are only getting one perspective on a situation.
Many posters don’t understand the power of publishing. While they feel they may be broadcasting to small group of locals, that’s not the case. There are over 5,000 members in one of the popular groups, comprised mainly of strangers as most people would only have personal connections to a few hundred.
The administrators of these groups do a good job at thankless and time consuming work. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. But it shouldn’t be up to them to police everyone’s posts— there is personal responsibility to be claimed.
As writers, editors and publishers, we weigh our words carefully and I urge you to do the same.