Opinion

The fight to control social media

By Tyla Harrington

What is it about social media that has everyone convinced they can say, and do, whatever they like?

We know that when you go online and write something nasty about a person or business, you risk being sued for defamation.

Even organisations are now being held responsible for what other people write on their social media pages.

And yet, judging from the comments, videos and photos I’ve seen - on Facebook in particular - people seem more hateful than ever.

Last week I read a comment in my newsfeed telling a teenager – who is a personal trainer – that her mental illness was in her head and she should try losing weight.

She’s only 19.

Fortunately, she has the support network in place to know that comment was not about her. But what about the people who don’t?

What happens to young men and women, or adults even, when they believe the hurtful things that people say online?

I truly shudder to think of that answer.

But it makes me wonder how “social media” could ever be considered “social” .

I have used Facebook, Instagram and Twitter many times but not once felt social afterwards.

Cute animal videos aside, more often than not I've just felt sad.

Sad because we seem to live in a world where so many people invest so much of their time putting people down for reasons I will never understand.

Yes, I’ve just “liked or loved” a cute photo of my nephew or niece. But what I would love more than that is to tell them so – over the phone, or better, in person.

There is no denying that social media has in some cases improved lives with stories of families being reunited, people found, or movements started.

And now Facebook and Instagram have hidden "likes" to make people feel comfortable sharing.

But what about the people who already feel too comfortable?

I still remember my mum sitting me down when I was young explaining to me that if I don't have anything nice to say, sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.

The question I now have is, at what stage did that all get lost?

I know it’s not as black and white as that saying is but if more people lived by it, this world – and social media at least – would be a much better place.

The truth is we were given a tool that had the opportunity and power to connect the world on levels not yet imagined.

But we missed the mark by an immeasurable distance and now we must fight to control what already has a crazy mind of its own.