While thoughtful and enlightening discussions between Saint Lucians can be found on the social medium called Facebook, twice more of the opposite can also be found there as well, as Saint Lucians vent about people and events they dislike and opinionate on issues of the day.
We applaud those persons who initiate sound and respectful discussions on social media, engaging in facts and figures to support the positions they advocate and to inform their audience on issues of which they may not be aware.
Sadly, however, too many Saint Lucians use the social platform in a thoughtless and frequently vindictive manner, with superficial comments to support ridiculous and untrue assertions made about their fellow Saint Lucians, indifferent to the emotional or long-lasting hurt they heap on each other.
Facebook, a website which allows users, to connect with friends, work colleagues or people they don’t know, allows users to share pictures, music, videos, and articles, as well as their own thoughts and opinions with however many people they like. It is also a place where people can hide their identities as they spew lies, hatred, innuendos, denigration of characters, ruin lives etc., feeling safe in the knowledge they will never be caught.
Facebook is like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways, meaning it could be a platform someone could use to build and develop positive vibes in people and communities, or a platform used to ruin people and communities. How this social platform is used by most citizens of a country determines the soul of that country.
This seems not to resonate with many Saint Lucians, who, with hidden identities, use the platform to heap scorn and hatred on others. They also engage in outright lies and fictional stories on individuals and organisations they do not like or who they believe stand in their way for advancement of some kind.
What some of us are unaware of is that the world is watching and listening to what we load or download on social media. The world sees the lies and hate some of us try to camouflage.
Saint Lucia, for instance, is a heavily politicised country. It therefore stands to reason that the social platform will be heavily politicised, which it is. However, some of us are taking this politicisation too far, to the point where we see no good in politicians who are not in our political camps.
As noted earlier, we do have on Facebook intelligent discussions on several issues buffeting the country today like the St Jude Hospital fiasco, the economy and its deficit budget, youth unemployment, crime and more, but these are in the minority. Greater in numbers are the negative, hurtful and indiscriminate comments done in such a way that one feels that some sort of license is given to certain individuals to be nasty on Facebook.
How can we as a nation pretend to love one another when we face each other, but tear the other apart, hiding behind our hidden identities on Facebook?
When will Saint Lucians understand that staying hidden on Facebook does not give what you say authenticity, neither does it give you a license to be hurtful.
As a nation we are becoming too reliant on keypads to convey a message. Those who hide their real names on Facebook and take courage in pseudonyms to hurt others are nothing but cowards, unable to take doses of their own medicine when handed to them on a face-to-face level.
While social media has many disadvantages which go deeper than breach of privacy, (hurting people and undermining personal safety), we decided to highlight the hurt Saint Lucians cause Saint Lucians, as we believe this could cause more problems for our country in the long run as we become more of a computerised nation, and our younger population becomes even more addicted to social media.
Too many of our young people, particularly those who are at school, are already encountering serious drawbacks in person-to-person relationships, unable to hold thoughtful (and even light-hearted) verbal intercourse with each other.
More and more studies have linked social media to poor mental health. According to a recent Forbes article, several studies have not only shown a correlation but also a causation. Findings suggest that people who limit social media to 30 minutes daily feel significantly better than those who use social media for longer periods of time. By reducing time spent, people were able to reduce depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
We remain hopeful that Saint Lucians learn to manage social media in healthier ways; or at least they don’t show an insatiable appetite for lies, disinformation and the need to hurt each other.