Letters to the Editor

Stop recording and posting people for likes on social media!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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Dear Editor,

In 2014 I sojourned in Songyuan, a rustic and quaint prefecture in China's Jilin province. Blacks were very scarce in the area, and so it was not long before I was catapulted to a celebrity-like status. Whenever I walked the streets, dined in restaurants, and shopped in the markets or stores I was always bombarded by cameras. Chinese lurked in every crevice to take pictures of me without my permission. In fact, once I appeared on any scene, people whipped out their cellphones and suggested I smile for their cameras.

Certainly, given the racial homogeneity of the area — all Chinese residents — I could well understand their fascination with my blackness. I was, nevertheless, quite incensed.

Very often I exclaimed, “Look yah nuh! Nuh bother with me today, enuh!”

Of course, they did not understand the words, but my no-nonsense tone and my thickly accented Jamaican creole were enough to have them scattering and scampering.

At that time, I thought that my fellow Jamaicans would not be as daring as these Chinese. However, I have since realised that many of us secretly photograph and record others and, quite thoughtlessly, post all recordings on social media.

Recently, I saw a video that a man recorded while he was purchasing gas for his car at a service station in Jamaica. In the video, he asks the attendant to give him “sixty-five hundred dollars” worth of gas. The attendant repeatedly asks if by “sixty-five hundred dollars” he also means “six thousand five hundred”. She seems to know that they are both saying the same figure, though the man's wording was rather unusual for her. However, she continues to ask that he confirms the amount, perhaps, fearing she would have to pay from her salary if she misinterprets his request and pumps more than the required amount of gas.

In another viral video, a young man gives money to three children who are seen begging on an undisclosed roadway in Jamaica. He, along with a woman in the vehicle, questions the children about their home life and the whereabouts of their parents. The children detail quite a bit in justifying their need for the money. Before handing each child a $500 note, the gentleman lectures them about the potential dangers of begging and insists that they stop.

These two videos, like many others that I have also seen, can be quite embarrassing for the individuals recorded. Note that the identity of the woman and the children is very clear as their faces are shown. Now, can you imagine how these children's peers may taunt them once they see this video? Can you also imagine how many predators might see the video and seek to lure these children, given all they have shared?

Imagine, too, the ridicule that the gas pump attendant will face because her attempt at seeking clarity has been ballooned into a grand public embarrassment because of the man's condescension and the viral 'success' of the video. Already, I am hearing the name-calling.

Let us be reminded that there are people who have committed suicide after embarrassing videos and pictures of them went viral. The hurt caused by the unsparing vitriol of social media critics can also be so maddening. Therefore, we simply cannot continue to willy-nilly record people and post same all over social media for likes and laughs. People who do this must be seriously prosecuted.

Smartphones give you no right to capture and post anything you wish! Stop it!

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock


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