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Social Media: Friend or Foe?

I recently had an unpleasant experience online. It wasn’t my first – nor, unfortunately, do I think will it be the last. But it left me reflecting on our online behaviours and why social media can provide so much good while also harbouring so much bad.

Social media is a tricky beast to navigate. You need to make sure whatever you post you can not only stand by, but also back up – whether that be with facts, statistics, or your own belief rhetoric. There are certain public identities who have learned those lessons the hard way.

Recently I uploaded a post on our 30 Foot Drop Facebook page trying to shed some light on and help educate people as to the importance of accessible disability parking; particularly why ACROD bays are constructed the way they are.

For those unaware, the ACROD Parking Program provides free accessible parking permits to Western Australians with a severe walking restriction and is supported by the WA Government. As the parking bays are for those with mobility issues, they are designed with additional space in mind – each ACROD bay must be at least 2400mm wide and 5400mm long, with a shared area adjacent to the ACROD bay also provided. You can get the full list of modifications

There are many reasons for this specific design, but top of mind is the likelihood that many of those who require an ACROD parking bay will have modifications to their vehicles which allow them to either drive or be a passenger. And those modifications generally require SPACE.

So when it was brought to my attention that someone had incorrectly parked in an ACROD parking bay (they had parked across the yellow striped shared area), I thought it was a good opportunity to educate our community on why these bays were designed the way they were.

As you can see from the screenshot, the purpose wasn’t to burn someone at the stake for irresponsibly parking illegally in an ACROD parking bay without the proper permit identification. Which is why I believe our friends at the Busselton Community Awareness Facebook page asked to re-share it through their own channels – seeing the opportunity to further educate the wider community on the importance of these much needed resource.

What transpired next has resulted in this blog.

Someone (who will remain anonymous) took displeasure in the post for whatever reason and began abusing a 30 Foot Drop staff member. Not comfortable with subjecting my staff to that kind of behaviour, I stepped in to takeover the commenting.

The vile language and genuinely horrific reasoning from the “troll” made me reflect on our behaviours. Would this per son act the same way in a face-to-face

exchange? Would they use the same language? Social media can give us a false sense of bravado, of a kind of anonymity that gives us an inflated sense of protection. But truth is, your social media presence can have a far more harmful impact on your life than an in-person exchange.

It’s regular practice for businesses and organisations to scour the Internet and check the online activities of potential prospects – whether it be for employment, promotion, higher learning or any other opportunities. Businesses and organisations understand that brand extends to its representatives, and therefore want to ensure any prospects align with their values.

Imagine something you posted – whether it be in anger, sadness or simply in the heat of the moment without a second thought – prevented you from achieving your dreams? What if you actually did reach the lofty heights you had worked so hard for, only for everything to unravel in an instance when an old post is dug up and comes back to bite you?

We regularly hear about this happening to celebrities or people of note, but this type of retribution happens all the time to everyday people. People like you and me. With the risks so high, why do people continually feel the urge to troll? I’m afraid that’s an age-old question I’ll never fully be able to understand nor articulate...

I’m a big fan of social media. I’ve long been vocal about it’s influence in allowing everyday people to have a voice that can be heard. People like you and me. But what I, and I know the vast majority of the global community, continue to grapple with is its very dark side: the voice it gives people who use it to spread hate. Who use it to tear people down, to reinforce incorrect information, and generally be not a nice human.

While we are no closer to solving that issue, I will continue to use social media for all its good. I encourage you to do the same. And the next time you think about posting or commenting, think to yourself – is this a flash in the pan moment, or is this something that five years from now I will be happy to stand by?


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