Again, the community of Cochrane has lost one of its youth on the railway tracks.
The reasons for these tragedies remain under investigation, and although there has been much speculation on social media, it is not fair to the grieving families or the community as a whole to make such judgments.
Speculation and opinions are often what can be found on social media sites. Though these tools can at times be invaluable, and a wonderful tool for good when in the hands of the right people, they can also be platforms for misinformation, rumours, untruths and callousness.
The reality is that this will never change; there will always be speculation on social media…the very nature of the service demands conjecture.
But there are two aspects about social media that need to change in order for it to serve the purpose it should be intended.
The first is that some people need to stop taking social media posts as documented facts. This may seem like a, ‘Gee, thanks for pointing out the obvious for us Cochrane Eagle,’ statement, but it’s shocking how many people believe everything they read on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.
We can all post on Facebook and Twitter, and we can all post malarkey on Facebook and Twitter.
The second thing that needs to change about social media is that it needs to stop being used to attack others.
Social media has changed the world much more than a lot of people realize.
Many of us simply see it as a fun app on our mobile devices that we can suss out information – what an old friend is doing back home; what our favourite sports team has been up to in the offseason; what Donald Trump said on the campaign trail this morning; who crushed the most candy – but the reality is that it is a far-reaching tool that can be used to connect one person with another whether they like it or not.
A popular trend in the sports and entertainment world of late has been to get a famous personality read hateful ‘tweets’ to the public so people can see the type of messages they are being sent on a regular basis.
Just Google ‘celebrities reading hurtful tweets’ and you’ll see that there is no shortage of people who feel the need to attack someone via social media while hiding behind the safety of their screens.
For the most part, this fad has been used for comic relief, on late-night talk shows and such, to attempt to put a positive spin on what can only be described as a concerning trend.
Because the reality is much different.
The reality is that many of our youth are dealing with social media attacks on a daily basis…sometimes worse.
A recent Canadian study – ‘Frequent Use of Social Networking Sites Is Associated with Poor Psychological Functioning Among Children and Adolescents’ – done by Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga and Rosamund F. Lewis released this past July, indicated that kids in Grades 7-12 who used social media for two or more hours a day reported poor self-rated mental health, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts.
These kind of results do not stem from looking up sports news, reading about what movie your favourite actor is filming, or seeing pictures of your friends on a camping trip last weekend; they stem from what some of our youth are forced to regularly deal with…an onslaught of bullying from those around them.
Before social media platforms hit the cyber world, children and teens still had to deal with being picked on or bullied from time to time.
But what’s different now is that there is no reprieve. You can’t simply go home to get away from the attacks; you can’t just avoid hanging out with those you don’t like; you can’t just go off and be on your own – the teasing won’t stop, and it’s not solely between the victim and the aggressor on social media, it’s there for everyone to see.
The above-mentioned study indicated that the correlation between social media use and poor mental health did not exist for university students.
This clearly shows that teens – particularly high-school-aged youth – are at risk when it comes to social media attacks, or cyberbullying, as Springbank Middle School teacher Bill Belsey coined it years ago.
Teach your children to be respectful and caring of others, and this includes on social media and in chat rooms as well. Talk to your kids about their social media habits, don’t just assume everything is fine.
If you are being bullied visit bullying.org or cyberbullying.org.