The mask of anonymity! Friend or foe?
Plus, one of the oldest women in Co Armagh has passed away at the grand age of 106.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. Does it still ring true in today’s world of social media. Give them a mask and they will tear you to pieces without fear of reprisal.
Like everything, moderation is the key. Social media has revolutionised the way we communicate and connect with each other. It has bridged the gap between people from different parts of the world and facilitated the spread of information and ideas.
And that is certainly the case for us here at Armagh I – it has helped us to deliver news to every part of the globe for the last 10-plus years. We wouldn’t be here without social media. It has been brilliant for news organisations like ourselves and communities to connect, especially in times of crisis. We don’t have to look too far to see the community response to the Portadown fire – facilitated by social media.
But it has its pitfalls, its many pitfalls. And we at Armagh I are all too aware of those also.
Much has been said about social media use resulting in a loss of productivity, causing social isolation and how it can be detrimental to our mental health. We are all open to those risks. We have had staff members threatened on social media on several occasions; mainly through the cowardice of anonymity.
And you only need to look at the abuse some of Northern Ireland’s more prominent female journalists have to withstand. It’s a particular issue in journalism. It could make you question using social media at all – I’m sure they do!
Anonymity on social media has undoubtedly led to the proliferation of cyberbullying and opened up virtual doors for crimes, hackers and cybercriminals to steal personal data. Again, hands up from us on that one; it’s not a nice club to be in. We spent a week at whim of Vietnamese hackers!
Last year, we spoke to distressed business owner Jennifer McKearney from The White Orchid in Armagh who woke up one morning to find her social media account had been hacked - Unfortunately, Jennifer’s account was lost forever, leaving the young business woman to start again.
Listen to a clip from Jennifer’s 2022 interview here
Users can easily hide behind fake accounts and post hurtful comments or messages, leading to mental anguish and even, in some of the most tragic cases, suicide.
In 2015, Ronan Hughes, 17, from Coalisland, had been tricked into sharing private images of himself online. He sadly took his own life hours after photos were sent to his friends when a ransom was not paid.
Social media has its advantages but it comes with its dangers. It is important for users to practice caution and mindfulness when using social media, and to be aware of the potential hazards associated with it. For more info on cyberbullying, click here.
One of your greatest protections against making bad choices is to not put on any mask of anonymity.
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Sticking with our social media discussion, let’s not forget that social media is a byproduct of the widespread expansion of the internet. As the dial up modem faded and broadband expanded the ability to stay constantly connected became the norm.
Not just a personal preference - internet access was also a necessity for many businesses as card payments increased. On March 19, 2009 The Armagh-Down Observer highlighted issues for rural businesses as high speed broadband roll-out remained hyper-slow in Armagh City and District; with areas such as Middletown, Carnagh and Derrynoose being worst effected.
The publication stated broadband connection to be ‘vital’ for businesses and that ‘30% of the EU’s rural population had no high speed access’.
Where a fixed line was not possible many had been provided a ‘satellite service’, however, to make matters worse BT had announced the removal of the satellite service by April 2009.
However, in response to this the European Commission promised ‘broadband for all by 2010’ and furthered that the European Parliament were ‘discussing a proposed further £1 billion to be made available through the European Economic Recovery Plan’ to spread high speed access throughout the effected areas.
Six weeks of hell ended with one Armagh I story