I have had the privilege of managing social media for a leading Christian church in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the past four years. During this time, I was able to observe how people, particularly Sri Lankans, use social media on my own. Those observations inspired the following principles that I call ground rules for using social media. There are seven major social media networks in the world today – (a total sum of 200+ networks). These are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Sri Lankans however use mostly Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok only. Hence, these ground rules are primarily for Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Ground Rules for Using Social Media: Think Twice Before Posting Once
It’s a fact that social media is a very powerful platform. Its power can be harnessed as a tool of construction or a weapon of destruction. The “For once, Don’t Do It” campaign by Nike, Inc. is a convincing example of harnessing the power of Social media as a tool for building up. The campaign, which was initiated in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, urged people to stand up to racism. Then we watched Donald Trump harnessing that power as a weapon of destruction breaking out a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol Hill that claimed four lives.
Social media is so powerful anything we post can go viral in a matter of minutes if not seconds. Cool! Isn’t it? The problem is we cannot control what goes viral and what doesn’t. Sometimes even the content we post with the best intentions in mind can bring disaster into somebody else’s life (even yours). It’s the reason why we have the first ground rule. “Think Twice Before Posting Once” – What does it mean? First, ask yourself the question “Is this post constructive?” If the answer is yes then you need to ask the second question. “Is this post destructive?” This time if the answer is no then go ahead and post it.
Ground Rules for Using Social Media: Think twice before Reacting Once
By reacting I mean responding to social media posts with a Like – Love – Haha – Wow – Sad and Angry or posting a comment. These features make using Social media fun and Social. Without them, it will be just Media and not Social. Unfortunately, we are ignorant when expressing ourselves sometimes; The way people reacted to Dilini Yehansa’s murder on social media is a good example of this. Initially, people used reactions such as “sad” and “angry” to express their feelings. They posted comments demanding justice for the victim. However, when social media reported that law enforcement discovered she had an affair with her murderer, people began responding with reactions like “Haha”. In the comments, they wrote things like “The whore deserved it” or “The slut had it coming”
It’s very bad they didn’t care Dilini’s bereaved family will be even more devastated by these responses on Social media. They behaved in a very insensitive manner when it was learned she had an affair. I have seen people can be incredibly insensitive when responding to similar reports on social media. Hence the second ground rule. “Think Twice Before Reacting Once” – What does it mean? First, ask yourself, “Is my reaction or comment an appropriate response to this post?” If the answer is yes, then ask yourself the second question. “Will this be my response if the news was concerning someone I care about?” If your answer is no then hold back your response.
Ground Rules for Using Social Media: Think twice before Sharing Once
The majority of us nowadays rely on social media rather than more traditional media platforms to obtain news. As a participatory platform that allows for user-generated content, and a news source social media lets us interact with news in a variety of ways, including the ability to “share” or “repost” news. It’s awesome, but it’s also the source of a major issue. User-generated, inaccurate news and fabricated stories! Hence the third and final ground rule. “Think Twice Before Sharing Once” – What does it mean? First, read the whole story before sharing. Publishers of inaccurate news and fabricated stories are aware that social media users often read only the title before sharing the story. As a result, they create misleading titles that entice readers to share the content.
For example, on 18th March 2021, Asian Mirror published a link to a story on their website on Facebook. The story was titled “කට වහගෙන රටේ නීතියට ගරු කරන්න: මන්ත්රී මුජිබර් ඉදිරියේ අජිත් රෝහණ කී කතාව” – “Shut Up and Obey the Law of the Country: Ajith Rohana’s Statement in the Presence of Minister Mujibur” is the literal English translation. (See the Facebook post here). The post was accompanied by a photograph of Minister Mujibur Rahuman sitting like a child before his headmaster next to Sri Lanka Police Spokesman DIG Mr Ajith Rohana. Asian Mirror had crafted the title and the image in a very subtle manner to imply that DIG Ajith rebuked the minister. It wasn’t until I finished reading the story that I realized the spokesman had simply quoted Plato! (According to the video, he did it very politely.) You can read the full story or watch the footage here.
Second, once you read the whole story verify its credibility by cross-referencing. A few months ago, a YouTuber interviewed Professor Meththika Vithanage who maintained people who die from COVID-19 must be cremated and not buried according to the World Health Organization. The interview was titled “කොරෝනා මිනී වළලන්න අවසර නෑ. ඊළග වසංගතය පොළොව බිදිගෙන ඒවී ” (It is not permissible to bury the bodies of COVID 19 victims. The next wave will burst through the earth.) You can watch that video here. When I cross-referenced her claims with the WHO website, I realized COVID-19 victims can be buried or cremated. Later on, other experts like Dr Althaf Marsoof refuted her position on the issue in the article here. I don’t intend to judge Professor Vithanage although she said a different story sometime later. However, it’s not an issue we can take lightly because the post went viral on Social Media. On Facebook, it has been shared 5.6K times and received 3.2K reactions and 767 comments. On YouTube, it has received 55,534 views. While the truth arrives much later lies spread very quickly. Therefore, always cross-check a story before sharing. There are many websites to help you with this but my favourites are FactCheck.LK and FactCheck.ORG.
Someone said, “Social Media is the Future,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Social Media is, without a doubt, reshaping the future at a breakneck speed. It’s everywhere influencing every area of life. However, we must be cautious in the way we use social media because our actions will determine whether it reshapes our future for better or worse. This is why the ground rules I mentioned earlier are of utmost importance.
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