The social media atmosphere seems particularly charged and volatile lately, no doubt a reaction to recent global events. With so much happening, social media are seeing countless views, opinions, feelings, emotions, debates and information, true and false. With such content, businesses and public figures find it tricky getting their voices heard clearly.
At times, they can find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. If they declare a moral position, they run the risk of alienating parts of their audience that doesn’t agree with them. While some posts indeed shed light on a cause, others are seen as tone deaf and completely missing activists’ true messages. Many companies that have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, for instance, have lost followers on social media. Others are accused of jumping on the bandwagon for profit and not being genuinely concerned. Even those who remain silent on pertinent issues and have large social media platforms are also viewed negatively.
Last week in Jamaica, businesswoman Jean Lowrie-Chin came under fire for defending Sandals hotel moguls Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and his son Adam. Adam had ‘liked’ one of Donald Trump’s tweets that almost incited violence against protestors. Chin’s tweet defending the Stewarts was seen as support for racism, or worse, for the contentious Trump. The incident proves people and businesses must be wary of their actions on social media. It’s not just their posts that define them. Liking or sharing content from certain quarters is equated with holding those same opinions, ideas and values.
We’ve also seen how past actions on social media can be dug up and used to label current rhetoric as hypocritical and insincere. Many believe the cancel culture prevalent on social media is justified in using people’s pasts as valid markers for their current values. The more empathetic say it is unfair to those who have enlightened themselves, learned from their mistakes, and changed their views.
Ironically, in this virtual realm, transparency and obscurity seem to co-exist. While some use social media to show their true selves without fear of the backlash they could get in the real world, others hide their true feelings to avoid social shame or worse consequences. Those who take the cautious road just don’t reveal everything about themselves and what they stand for online or even stay off social media altogether.
Many are struggling with what they say publicly during these times. Others are using the opportunity to look inward at themselves and their values. Perhaps the best way to manage social media is to educate oneself on important issues before hopping online.