Stop Using Facebook as a Weapon

Do you remember the three essential rules of keeping a mogwai from the eighties movie Gremlins?

1. Do not expose the mogwai to bright lights or sunlight
2. Do not let it get wet
3. Never feed it after midnight

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that young Billy didn’t quite stick to the rules and so all sorts of nasty things happened. More and more ‘gremlins’ spawned and set about causing havoc. Some people were killed, many others injured and it took a massive effort from Billy and his friends to bring order back to the town of Kingston Falls.

Do you remember the golden rule from the early days of the internet (which is just as relevant today)?

Don’t feed the trolls

Unfortunately the trolls have been eating very well and have continued to spawn and cause havoc. Where are Billy and his friends when you need them?

In Internet slang, a troll (/?tro?l/, /?tr?l/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. – Wiki

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to be infected with a little bit of ‘troll’.

I see it on social media platforms like Facebook every day. People say things in the public space of the internet that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face.

Why is it that we mostly follow mum’s advice to ‘mind your manners’ when we’re with other people yet completely lose all sense of respect for others when we’re online? Why do we feel that we can take the role of judge, jury and executioner when we’re in front of a keyboard or phone screen? How do we think it’s alright to be so Jekyll and Hyde?

We’ve got to stop using Facebook as a weapon.

Before you post a reply to something you’ve seen online, stop and recognise that real people are involved. Real people will read what you write and may suffer real hurt.

It’s OK to disagree with someone. I’m not advocating that we all be saccharin sweet when we have a different point of view but we don’t need an AK-47 to kill a fly. Where’s the nuance in our conversations? Instead of acting like everyone involved in an online conversation is just a fictitious character, only existing in cyberspace, imagine you’re sitting opposite that person at a cafe and think of how you could help them see your point of view. Consider how you can thoughtfully add to a discussion rather than throwing in a grenade and running.

…. and speaking of cafes ….

Another way many people use Facebook and other social media as a weapon is to mercilessly berate businesses such as cafes. Sometimes it may be appropriate to call out bad service but too many times I see people telling the world about their bad experiences before taking matters up with the business involved. I’ve used email and private messaging to voice disappointment a number of times. I’ve had great results by respectfully and privately taking my gripe to someone who can do something about it.

On the other hand, how many of those who use social media to bludgeon businesses who don’t get it right every time actually drop a compliment or two on the public pages of businesses that exceed their expectations? When was the last time you publicly thanked a business online for being good at what they do?

There’s a better way.

I think we can do disagreement better. I think we can disagree without destroying relationship. We can honour others who hold a different point of view. The internet isn’t a competition to be won by vitriol.

We all get to be agents of change in turning the tide against the nastiness. Let’s all resolve to let grace and kindness flood our use of social media. Let’s decide to look out for opportunities to leave compliments on the Facebook pages of businesses that are doing a great job and to handle our complaints privately.

We’re all ‘grown ups’. Let’s start acting that way and stop using Facebook as a weapon.

(And whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, let’s have a robust yet respectful discussion about it in the comments section of this post.)

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If you can’t say anything nice …


Sometimes it pays to remember some of mum’s old sayings such as ….

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”.

Many people may think a little longer before posting anything to Facebook following a court decision that will cost an Australian couple thousands. The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that even though they didn’t create a poster that was considered defamatory, they added an image of it to Facebook and therefore are liable for legal costs for action taken in New South Wales courts.

A Sydney couple have been left with a $15,000 legal bill after their comments about a neighbour’s dogs on a community social media page saw them sued for defamation in the NSW District Court.

In July last year a series of posters was placed in public areas around Scotland Island, an idyllic island about 30 kilometres north of Sydney in Pittwater accessible only by boat, which is home to about 1000 people. Headlined “Attention Island Residents”, it accused Nader Mohareb of failing to control his “agitated and highly excitable” King Charles spaniels in public places. – SMH

A photo of the poster was added to the community Facebook page. The accused couple deny creating the poster but admit to posting on the page and adding comments.

For some reason, many people using social media feel that they have the right to say whatever they choose about others without facing the consequences. This court action proves otherwise.

I wonder why so many people say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying face to face.

Scottish author and theologian Rev. John Watson, writing under the name Ian Maclaren is quoted as saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I think he was onto something.

Sometimes we need to say hard things or challenge others, but we need to do it in the right way, at the right time and using the right medium. A public Facebook or Twitter post almost never fulfills those criteria. One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is why we feel the need to say something hard. Is it to help the other person, correct a wrong, or simply because we want to hurt someone else?

[bctt tweet=”Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Ian MacLaren”]

We never know what someone else is facing and while that’s never an excuse for ‘bad behaviour’, it’s a good reason to be cautious in the way we deal with others. It shouldn’t be the threat of legal action that causes us to hold back from an explosive tweet or hurtful Facebook update. It should be more about the fact that we’re humans dealing with other humans and knowing our own frailties, refusing to throw stones at others and their frailties.

Just in case you’re still tempted ‘have a go’ using social media, it’s worth considering these facts about social media defamation from Slater and Gordon.

When posting on Facebook or Twitter, take the newspaper test – think of yourself as an editor of a newspaper or media outlet, because you will be just as liable if you defame someone.

Here are five things you should know about social media defamation:

1. In general terms, defamation occurs when a person intentionally spreads information about another person, group of people, or small company that damages their reputation, or can make others think less of them.
2. Defamation is actionable regardless of the medium. A person can be defamed, for example, in print, through photos and on the internet.
3. Defamation cases involving the internet and social media are relatively new, but the same principles apply.
4. A person who did not create the defamatory material, but only shares it (for instance, by “retweeting” a tweet), can also be held found liable guilty of defamation.
5. There are several defences to defamation, including that the statement was true, or that it was an expression of an honest opinion. Consequently, you may be liable for defamation if you spread information which constitutes a hurtful and untrue statement of fact about another person.

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Go Ahead, Make My Day


50 isn’t such a big number … until you have to start writing it on forms that ask for your age. Today I clock up half a century of living. I’m very privileged to be doing so while enjoying some ‘time out’ with my amazing family.

I’m wondering if on this day I can take the liberty of asking you to do a few things that will make my one day a year very special, while costing you ….. nothing. Well, maybe a little time but these ideas won’t put a dent in your wallet.

Like My Facebook Page

First of all, I’d love to connect with a lot more people on Facebook. I have a public Facebook page that makes that really easy. It’s what Facebook calls a ‘fan page’ but I’m not that much of an egotist that I want you to declare yourself as my ‘fan’. It’s simply just an easy way to share stuff on Facebook. Just head to my Facebook page and click ‘like’.

Share My Posts

Whenever you drop in to my blog, please, please, please feel free to use the little buttons at the bottom of each post to share my posts via Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Tumblr or Reddit. Hey, you can even click the email button to send a copy to your friends. When you share my posts in any, or all, of these ways, more people visit my blog and I smile a lot. Really I do. If you use StumbleUpon I would especially love you to Stumble my posts. You’re more than welcome to spend a few minutes going back over my recent posts and sharing a few.

Comment On My Posts

Don’t just think it …. say it. I love it when people leave comments on my posts. I don’t necessarily mena just this post. Find a post or two that you’ve enjoyed or even something you disagree with and leave a comment or three. Your comments make me smile big time.

Subscribe By Email

Did you know that you can read via email each day? Instead of having to visit my blog each day, it can visit you. Just click here, enter your email address, and you’ll never miss a post. You’ll get one email a day if I’ve posted on that day. It’s completely free and you can unsubscribe at any time so why not give it a go?

Thank You

So there you are. If you’d like to, and only if you’d like to, you can make me extra happy by following a few of the ideas above.

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The Death of the Photo Album


According to a new study the growing trend of sharing photos online is causing the death of the traditional photo album. Around two-thirds of the 3000 Britons who were surveyed now catalogue their pictures on computers, tablets or on their smartphones.

Around one in five people take photos with the intention of posting them on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it revealed.

Meanwhile the so-called “selfie” – a snap taken by the photographer holding a camera at arm’s length – has become the most popular image captured by young people.

These account for 30 per cent of the pictures shot by those aged 18-24 and, according to the study, men take more pictures of themselves than

A lot of photos are only being stored on sites like Facebook these days. Many of those who were questioned share their photos online within a minute of taking them and over half share their photos online within a week.

Just a third of those questioned said they still displayed images using an old-fashioned book. More than half – 53 per cent – claimed they preferred to use Facebook and only 13 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they had ever used an album. –

The vast majority of pictures are never ever printed and only exist in digital form. Do you think we’re losing something with the loss of printed photos and photo albums or does the way we share photos these days mean that we see more of our pictures?

I share quite a few photos through my instagram account. I also put photos on Facebook but most of my photos end up being stored on a hard drive at home.

Do you still haul out the old photo albums to have a look through from time to time? How do you store your photos? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments section of this post.

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Marketing Misery


In the wake of the Boston bombings I’m left asking what kind of sickness drives a person to create fake stories that feed off disaster? What could possible push a person to crave attention so much that they use a tragedy to manipulate social media to get noticed or even create profit?

Within hours of the Boston Marathon explosions I was seeing friends sharing tragic stories of love and loss via social networking sites. The sad thing was, the stories weren’t true. Other, less honourable people had devised stories to take advantage of the bombings and to manipulate good people into sharing their cruel creations online.

It wasn’t that the people that were sharing the stories were naive or gullible, it’s that they were trusting and it never entered their minds that someone could be so callous as to make up stories that would feed on the misery of others. My friends had acted in good faith. Those who had created the stories were feeding off the misery of others.

The death of innocence

Hundreds of thousands of people shared the picture of a small girl who supposedly died in the blasts. She wasn’t even there. It was the photo of a young, very much alive, young girl. I can only imagine the kind of damage that will cause her and her family.

Love lost

Many others shared the story of the man who lost the love of his life before he had a chance to propose. The story said he was going to propose to his girlfriend after the marathon. It even had a picture of him kneeling over her lifeless body. The picture was real but it was actually a guy helping a stranger after the explosion. She didn’t die either.

Some people took the opportunity to create Twitter accounts or to register domains to either cash in on tragedy or stroke their sick egos. I’m also now receiving spam emails with titles like, “Boston Explosion Caught on Video”, “2 Explosions at Boston Marathon” and “Video of Explosion at the Boston Marathon 2013”, all designed to use people’s natural interest in the tragedy to get them to click o links that will compromise their computers.

It’s so sad to think that today’s “what’s in it for me” generation has gone beyond simply being self seeking to becoming oblivious to the suffering of other people.

Check before posting
While it’s yet another reminder for all of us to check details before we share anything on social media, it’s also concerning to see this developing trend of people being prepared to ignore their conscience to further their own interests. Shocking when you realise that those interests are often just about seeing a fake story shared or liked across the world.

If you’re looking for a way to check some of the stories that you see on social media let me recommend Snopes and Hoax Slayer. A quick visit to either of those sites should confirm whether a story is true or not.

There’s good news too

Thankfully there’s good news coming out of social media use too. The vast majority of people around the world have been using social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to keep others informed, offer help, and to encourage others to pray. Then there are stories like the one where a Melbourne Dad praises Facebook for helping to find his daughter after Boston bombings.

Directed away from the area by police and without a mobile phone Mr Phillips had no way of contacting Annabel or his wife, Suzy – until a kind stranger offered him their phone, and he was able to leave a message for them on Facebook.

If you want to find out more about some of the stories being shared check out Some of the most emotional Boston marathon stories are fake.

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