Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Sheriff's Corner: The good and the bad of social media


I’m a little frustrated by all the negativity through social media lately. No, it’s not just what’s going on with the ambulance or the Sheriff’s Office. It’s much more than that and I wonder what is causing this hate with people. I suspect it’s kind of a mob mentality when people can get each other riled up over a personal post not thinking of how it affects not only the person they are writing about but how friends, family and their community are affected.

Recently my brother’s kids (adults) got into a hateful diatribe on Facebook which resulted in both unfriending each other. I didn’t participate in the discussion because frankly it was so vulgar I didn’t want to stoop to that level to acknowledge it. Though they unfriend each other they still continued to bash one another through wall postings. Somewhere along the line they unfriended me for no cause, which was okay. In another instance, I’m aware of a whole family of six unfriended each other. I’m still friends with them but won’t take sides on the issue. A little wisdom goes a long way.

This hatred isn’t limited to Facebook, Twitter or other emerging social media. I belong to two groups online of likeminded motorcycle riders and sailing enthusiasts. There isn’t a time where I’ve posted something on the clubs websites where someone didn’t reply with hateful comments. In fact, whenever anyone posts anything there is always someone that has to write something negative.

I’ve come to the point where I don’t use Facebook that much. Frankly, I might check on things that my wife, kids, close friends and family post… that’s about it. There are way too many people who are addicted to social media. Just today I saw a cute cartoon video on Facebook. It was a black and white retro cartoon depicting people glued to their smartphones and ignoring other people even during emergencies. Another scene depicted a woman (cartoon character) standing on a ledge of a tall building while below a crowd of people with cellphones in hand videoed the woman falling to her death… the crowd just walked away. The final scene was hoards of people with their faces in their phones walking over a cliff, oblivious to the danger ahead.

While I can see the good in social media, I can also see a darker side to it. In fact, we have solved crimes based on what criminals have posted. Frankly, as a law enforcement officer, I have noticed more and more children and adults being anti-social. It’s like an alternate society taking over, where people don’t care about anything but being on their cellphone on social media. To me, it seems it should be called anti-social. All of you have experienced people with their face in their phones and ignoring people around them. This behavior isn’t just rude it’s hurtful to loved ones who are losing time with their families.

Social media is powerful and has toppled governments, look at Egypt. Where a peaceful government and ally of the United States was over thrown by radical Muslims. Far worse is what it can do locally where rumors and hatred is spread without recourse. It’s just not right! Whether it’s nationally or locally, people need to get the facts and not blindly believe what one or a group might post.

My parents raised me with a few good rules. The primary one is, treat others as I would want to be treated or as it’s better known “The Golden Rule”. Another teaching, which I think is important for people using social media today, if you can’t say something good about someone else, don’t say anything. This is NOT saying people don’t have the right to free speech, we all do. I’m saying everyone from the President down to you and I shouldn’t be harmful to one another just to be mean on social media. Hateful and harmful speech isn’t good for anyone; the nation, the community or one another.


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