Mark Wignall

Mark Wignall

AS the Internet exploded exponentially in the late 1990s, so did social media in the next decade and beyond. As soon as its marketing potential to build brands and to solidify well-earned reputations was recognised and utilised, so did the downside rear its ugly head.

Digital media has become common place and social media accounts have been taken up by almost everyone. From Facebook, to Twitter, to WhatsApp to Instagram and Snapchat, Jamaicans are right up there with the behaviour of developed societies when it comes to social media.

Social media is used quite frequently by businesses, events and entrepreneurs to promote all aspects of their business. Social media has revolutionised the way people communicate and socialise on the Web.

But, as I said, it has a dark side. Cyber-bullying, loss of privacy and fake news have become more prevalent. Recent utterances by Proven’s Chris Williams re “Lattes for the middle class” attracted backlash, just as a Lasco social media post about champion athlete, Omar McLeod, tried to negatively drag him down a few years ago when he was at the very top of his profession. Then Lascelles Chin of Lasco stepped up immediately and booted the employee who posted the rubbish.

Preaching and dancing policemen, as well as a gun-toting security guard, have all received significant negative exposure on social media.

The US Navy hospital ship also took a hard hit, when a member of the public decided to create a social media video “informing” people the ship was in Jamaica to, as she said “kill off black people”. Then later there was a fake video being pushed of a ship on fire by the docks. It was said that Jamaicans had set the hospital ship afire.

Products have also taken a hit. Magnum Tonic Wine was hit with a fake viral video re fake Magnum that infiltrated thousands of devices across the region. Similarly, children’s drink brand, Kool Kidz, recently rebranded its product line and reduced its sugar content, in an effort to make the product healthier for its young consumers. Though the changes were made for the right reasons, consumers began to boycott the product, saying it’s fake and should not be bought.

Why would we need to involve our children, already under all sorts of social media pressures, in this fakery? What was the motive?

Additionally, warnings have been made through various WhatsApp groups to schools and the youth, to purchase alternate juice options. These disingenuous utterances have had a tremendous negative impact resulting in loss of business and a hard hit to reputations across the board.

Losing a customer due to poor customer service pales in comparison to a viral video or social media post that can possibly reach hundreds of thousands of persons. It has the potential to rack up millions of dollars in losses for businesses and damage to personal or company reputation that may be irreversible.

From last week to now just about every other person with a half decent smart phone was showing two viral WhatsApp posts about two Jamaican politicians. Many people I spoke with were torn between being perplexed and the usual, if-it-nuh-go-so-it-it-near-go-so. This is very dangerous use of social media.

A recent piece from Reuters said, “Dozens of people in India have been detained on suspicion of publishing inflammatory social media posts...” after a Supreme Court ruling.

Here in Jamaica, we have the freedom to build up and to tear down through social media but where is the responsibility? One of the dangers I am sensing is that many of our people are increasingly seeing these abuses of social media purely as empowerment.

—Jamaica Gleaner

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

The passing of Sir Everton Weekes, last of the legendary 3Ws cricketers, is an occasion to be reminded of the heights that we West Indians have dared to scale and the challenges we have been able to conquer.

Many commentators including Prof Ken S Julien, Andrew Jupiter, Ian Welch and Gregory McGuire have warned us on the precarious state of our main foreign exchange earner, the local natural gas industry. Jupiter said: “… the ingredients that allowed Pt Lisas to be successful have dissipated.

In T&T, it is one’s constitutional right to ­protest, but it should be done peacefully and not infringe on the rights of others, as their rights to peace and quiet will be affected.

I write to correct remarks carried in the article, “PM at sod-turning: Many wanted Diego State lands” (Express, July 3, Page 10).

I note the PM is quoted as follows: I was passing a morning in the area and saw part of the land fenced off which was done by a State agency. I called the Port of Spain Mayor and said, “Don’t you know your land is being stolen? Get up and stop it.”

“A single spark can start a prairie fire.” —Mao Zedong, 1930.

This observation came back to my mind in the witnessing of the events of the last seven days. The underlying theme was the use of weapons to resolve our social problems.

It is a tempting counter-narrative that during his third voyage Christopher Columbus may have literally “stumbled” upon Iere on August 31, 1498. Iere is the land of the hummingbird to the First Peoples, who were already here when Columbus arrived.