Perils of social media postings

GODFREY Chitalu.

THERE is no argument that our citizens enjoy a cat and mouse relationship with the police. It is undeniable that perceptions on police conduct or is it misconduct are quite negative, if not warped. It therefore came as a surprise that of all things, I empathised with a police officer, whose corrupt solicitations were rewarded with a video, which has since gone viral on social media. The officer, though in the wrong, melted my heart through his frantic pleadings for non-exposure.
To heighten chances of a logical conclusion, armed with their evidence, videographers should have done well to report the incident to police. Posting on social media is not enough for a case of such nature. Witnesses, evidence, a complainant and an opened docket is the right route to a conviction. As it stands, as long as complainants are content with a social media posting, the culprit will get away with administrative punishment: transfer, demotion and or half salary.
Since it is now water under the bridge, with the video finding its way on social media, my address is directed at the people involved in the sharing of this and other videos and the impact on netizens. Of course several online videos shaped my thinking; one celebrity felt duty-bound to outdo Zodwa by posting distasteful semi nudes of her body; five women shared their deliberate macabre act of allegedly inserting a bottle in the private parts of a woman, who supposedly had carnal knowledge with their husbands.
Many people in our country are not very conversant with implications of social media postings. I was actually advising someone that as a job-seeker, many employers nowadays take stock of our social media footprints before offering any job. It goes without saying that any online posting can easily be traced; posting trash, pornography, and related things has both present and future consequences. For instance, for those in the know, what was dubbed “Ndimuntu Obe” and other illicit, vulgar and indescribable videos, no matter how we wish, can never be erased from the net. They are stark reminders of our foolishness!
Even if we are not aware how far some of our postings can be traced, it is high time we became conscious that we play with social media at our own peril. How many families have been shattered by social media postings? Our postings speak a lot about who we are! Posting unprofessional, degrading and unethical things on social media, we are told, has landed one health practitioner in hot soup. It is not good to lose a job, let alone a good paying position, just because of your eagerness to satisfy insatiable netizens.
Apart from metadata; precise geographical location, when you share a photo it can easily be traced by simply downloading it and subjecting it to certain software. Our police probably don’t just have time and appetite to police our social media mischiefs. Imagine posting a really bad picture without thinking that it easily shares your location including precise street views. It is always wise to assume that whatever we post on social media leaves a footprint. Experts are of the view that whatever you post on a computer, phone and related electronic gadgets will ultimately be traced to you.
Giving personal tips about myself – early in my Facebook life, I realised that whatever I posted represented me and my beliefs. I will therefore only post and share things that I believe are authentic and deserve a wider audience. I have and will never be the type that forwards, shares or comments on anything whose veracity I doubt. Except for one or two mishaps, that has earned the wrath of my wife and church members; I have closely guarded my postings to reflect who I am, what I want portrayed and what others expect of me.
While most of us find solace in social media jokes, no joke is universal. I have Western, oriental and African friends who attest to the fact that you need to walk a tight rope in this area. How many times have you been tagged over a vile but viral joke, which you are too embarrassed to share with your kith and kin?
Our daughter, who is working in Dubai, shared some dos and don’ts in regard to social media in United Arab Emirates – UAE: you are not allowed to post pictures or videos of others without consent, threatening and abusive posts or comments can land you in jail. Although non-Muslims can drink, posting alcohol-related vulgar pictures that offend values are punishable. Pornography is off limits while tagging someone without their consent is punishable. This is strictly enforced. I hope our maturity is satisfied with self-regulation.
Gossip and spreading of false news is fineable up to Dh 1 million in UAE and yet in our country gossip is the order of the day! Someone loses a spouse and the rumour mill goes in overdrive authoritatively posting that the surviving spouse is responsible! What insolence?
Let us learn that in life, certain things are best left as private; we always have scoops of accident victims being paraded online. How low can we become by posting a dead body before the next of kin is informed?
We are also prone to sharing links that are either fake, have been overtaken by events or are half-truths. I laughed at a certain news agent that almost aired a story about a South African pastor who had died after being on a 40-day prayer and fasting; to them, it was news since it had just been shared on social media!
It is good to be authentic in our social media interactions. I know of a Facebook friend whose postings are always exaggerated. We know you in real life and nothing you post will change your status. Just like I can’t cheat my peers that I have migrated to the USA no matter how many times I post my only picture at the White House, gotten close to 20 years ago.
The author is a social and political commentator, 0977466284, 0963013760 and 0954593848.

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