OPINION: Think before you hit the post button

Phiri Cawe

The debate about the pros and cons of social media is not a new one.

But what is interesting is how people are finding new ways to use it to communicate and interact with the world.

Previously it was primarily used by people wanting to share their stories or boast about their lives. It allowed us to get to know each other and get a glimpse into each other’s lives – even if we didn’t know each other well.

It takes us to places we have never been and sometimes lands us right in different homes we have never thought we would be.

It is also a good tool for many to brag to their detractors and it is immediate so you can post now and your enemy will be able to read about you within seconds.

It can also be deceiving and annoying. But what few give enough thought to is who their audience is and how safe the information they’re posting, will be once “out there”.

That is always top of my mind when I sign into any of my social media accounts. I always think of who is watching me, reading my status, are my family members part of that or will I be safe to say things that some are not ready to hear?

You may also have noticed how political parties are also starting to use these platforms to entice voters, in the belief that the young and energetic among them will be found on social media.

In the Western Cape it has been glaringly apparent how provincial and municipal leaders are using it. There was a point where you would think they no longer relied on traditional media to show off their good work.

It also work well for some desk-bound reporters and those who are lazy to ask questions – particularly now that people are limiting interactions with others due to Covid-19.

While social media has turned some of their proponents into celebrities, it has also left many with egg on their faces.

We, the followers, click the “like” button and post emojis and memes in response to their status updates. They seldom return the favour… until you post an opinion that is critical of them or something they have done – or if you publicly call them out on something they have failed to do.

Their use of, and apparent obsession with these social media platforms have given us a glimpse into their way of thinking and who they really are.

And if I’m completely honest, I have found many of them to be stupid.

If they are to use social media, they should be trained to use it responsibly and how to behave on these platforms.

A recent scenario comes to mind.

A politician, whose daughter is a nurse – what we call a frontline worker in the new normal – was shot and robbed of her car and other belongings.

The politician posted a number of updates about this on his Facebook page, each one with a picture of him. While I initially understood his motive, at some point it became too much.

He was not only giving out information but was also traumatising his family, the daughter, us and the colleagues of the victim with all the details.

However, when journalists starting making inquiries about the incident, he suddenly made a U-turn and asked for privacy for his family – privacy, which from the word go, had not existed.

The point I am trying to make here is that as much as we are happy to post what is good and working for us, at same time we are exposing ourselves to many vultures.

We are putting the lives of those “cute babies” at risk when we brag about them on social media.

I know the intention is not that, but the enemy sees what he wants to see and we expose our children to danger without realising it.

We are a society that allows wealth and other goodies to go to our heads and post about these things without thinking about who is viewing our posts.

Criminals are more advanced than us.

When you “check-in” in Saldanha, they smile – because they now know that your house is vulnerable.

When you post that you’ve just dropped your cute baby at the creche, they are ready to pounce on her or him.

We are living in a dangerous world where not everyone is seeing what you are seeing.

I’m not saying stay away from social media completely. I’m saying that we must think about what we are posting and why we are doing so.

And let’s not be so obsessed with exposing ourselves, what we have and what we are doing.

It is a social medium, after all. Let us socialise.