If social media are an uncharted territory, let's have some voluntary patrols
Social media “empower” everyone, but wait until you are at the wrong end of the “empowerment”. Long gone are the days when a woman scorned had to convince a newspaper to take a glance at her “story”. Who needs the ears of entertainment reporters now when posting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram works a lot better and faster? Celebrities must be missing the time when they only had the paparazzi to worry about.
People are using the social media to undercut others to great effect. And mind you, several celebrities have also jumped on the bandwagon. If someone is going on the offensive, social media tools can be his best friends. But what goes around can come around.
Having the social media looming over your head is the big price a celebrity has to pay nowadays. If privacy was very precious before, it’s all but non-existent now. Everyone has a cellphone that can snap photos that can be posted instantaneously in cyberspace for public consumption. Wearing a hat or sunglasses would only prolong the debate and scrutiny, and thus the agony.
Some celebrities are giving one another this advice: If your secret life is on show on the Internet, denying it only makes it worse. Face it like a man and exploit the short attention span of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter users.
As for the new, formidable army of paparazzi, photo analysts and “critics” – they wouldn’t probably heed any advice. After all, it takes just a few seconds to register a “new account”, from which any photoshopped content can be launched, and the culprit can disappear without a trace. The only comfort is the social media’s ability to quickly spot a maliciously fake posting, but as we all have learned, leaked “truths” hurt far more than lies.
Those working in conventional media are taught to practice ethical standards. Journalists have to ask themselves, “What will society gain from this?” before publishing or broadcasting any scoops.
The bad news is that although some social media users also adhere to the same ethical standards, there are always others who don’t. And the worse news is that the attention generated by no-holds-barred postings and their perceived “effectiveness” are tempting some mainstream journalists to bend the rules.
Lots of scandals concerning celebrities have been first exposed on social networks. And if the social media are not responsible for exposing them, they have done a highly effective job of scrutinising them or sexing them up. If privacy violation is a crime, social media are a virtual neighbourhood devoid of any police patrols.
We can only hope for sanity and a sense of responsibility to prevail. Some people may deserve to be exposed, but others simply do not. It’s easier said than done, however. Social media feed on human curiosity and the haunting fear of being the last to know. It’s very hard not to click “Like” here or “Share” there when most of your friends are doing it. And it’s a lot harder, if not absolutely impossible, not to click “Read more” and “Watch” when the content teases you on the computer screen.
But we must try. There is a belief that “privacy” is not as sacred for the new generation as it was for the older ones, but that is disputable. What is considered “private” may vary from generation to generation, but the conviction that privacy should be respected still holds sway. Social media are still arguably at the fledgling stage, but this “neighbourhood” is no longer too young to get a volunteer patrol.