OPINION

Here's what we don't want to see in 2019

28 December 2018 - 08:00 By Odwa Mjo
Yay for using social media responsibly.
Yay for using social media responsibly.
Image: AFP/Leon Neal

A simple tweet with just the right amount of retweets can get you hired - but it can also get you fired. 

Each year comes with its share of trends and news-making incidents that dominate the internet and dinner conversations. 

Some will be memorable and others should be left behind in 2018. This year has seen Twitter and Facebook users fuelled with frustration because of poorly informed and ignorant posts.

We have used social media to exacerbate intolerance and ignorance simply because "it is freedom of speech".

The year has been clouded with politically incorrect posts from Adam Catzavelos to Shashi Naidoo. 

Such posts are met with public outrage on social media platforms, highlighting the unfiltered and dangerous manner in which people use these platforms.

Reputations are tarnished and careers are ruined by a simple post that could have been avoided by thinking twice about before clicking "post".

Businessman Adam Catzavelos used the k-word while describing the scenery at a Greek beach while on vacation.

Racist rants are often accompanied by certain "triggers", the perpetrator defending their actions by saying they were angered. That in no way excuses using profanities to degrade others.

Catzavelos's action were premeditated. Hhe understood the meaning of that word, the weight it carried and its implications, but still continued to tape the video and share it with the public. 

Such posts are often followed by a seemingly sincere apology that alludes to the perpetrator having had no idea of the damage they cause. 

Model Shashi Naidoo had to do a reputation clean-up after an exchange on Instagram where she referred to Gaza in Palestine as a "sh*thole".

Naidoo made these comments without fully understanding the political climate in the region.

"I am extremely sorry about the statements I have made, unfortunately my comments came from very little knowledge of the political standing as I am not a political figure or even follow politics," she said in a statement.

Social media has created an excuse that allows us to say things we would not normally say and bully people under the banner of "it's just my opinion". What we disregard is the impact that these "just opinions" have on the receiving end.

We are a lot braver and more courageous behind our phone screens and desktops, which can be a good thing because we have seen many people use social media as a platform to open up and speak out about things that affect them, such as depression and abuse. 

Social media platforms are powerful tools and we often underestimate the impact they have on our everyday lives. 

In the digital world one shares opinions with a greater pool than you would face to face. Social media has exposed the bigotry that we can sweep under the carpet in our one-on-one interactions. 

Homophobia, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, transphobia and xenophobia among others are revealed in 240 characters. For some reason the tolerance for others is far less when we're typing on our devices, expecting we would never physically have to confront one another.  

People have the tendency to think our online lives are not representations of our "real" lives. However our digital presence reveals aspects of our character.

Your thoughts and opinions are still yours, whether you write them on a notepad, verbalise them or tweet them. If your mantra is "I post what I like" you also have to be willing to bear the consequences that come with it. 

Odwa Mjo is a TimesLive journalist

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