Jamaica Gleaner - - SATURDAY TALK - An­drea Mart­inSwaby An­drea Martin-Swaby is as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of pub­lic prose­cu­tions, head, Cy­ber Crime and Dig­i­tal Foren­sics Unit. Email feed­back to columns@glean­

FACE­BOOK, TWIT­TER, In­sta­gram, FaceTime, and What­sApp have be­come the pri­mary means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the 21st cen­tury. Voice over IP has nearly re­placed the need to use cel­lu­lar min­utes. Many have ar­gued that data plans and wire­less con­nec­tions have al­most made the need for land­line con­nec­tions ob­so­lete. To­day, the more im­por­tant con­nec­tion for many is the one that gives ac­cess to ones and ze­ros and al­lows fast and easy ac­cess to cy­berspace.

Even the way we re­search aca­demic and non-aca­demic con­tent has been over­taken by the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of in­for­ma­tion in the world of ones and ze­ros. Google, Bing and other in­stan­ta­neous search en­gines have re­moved the need to flip through page upon page of en­cy­clopae­dias and books to gather per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion. Books in PDF for­mats, re­search pa­pers, and jour­nals are all within reach of those who can click a but­ton on a dig­i­tal screen.

This should come as no sur­prise, as noted spe­cial com­men­ta­tor Alvin Tof­fler, in his sem­i­nal piece, The Third Wave, from as early as 1980 spoke on the in­creas­ing role com­mu­ni­ca­tions would play in the devel­op­ment of our so­ci­ety and the im­pact it would have on our hu­man in­ter­ac­tion as our so­ci­ety evolved through the in­creas­ing use of tech­nol­ogy.

To­day, like never be­fore, per­sons are able to ex­press their views to the wider pub­lic via on­line com­ment columns on top­i­cal is­sues. Through this medium many post their per­sonal views on var­ied top­ics for many to see. The con­ve­nience and ca­pa­bil­i­ties are end­less, and the user the bet­ter for it.

Per­sons pub­lish their tal­ent in po­etry, play­ing mu­sic, and singing on sites such as YouTube, and cre­ate web pages and blogs to ad­ver­tise their busi­ness ven­tures.

To­day on so­cial me­dia, post­ing is easy. Just click a but­ton. This is good where the con­tent ed­i­fies, where it ex­hibits a per­son’s in­tel­lec­tual acu­men, or where it high­lights a hidden tal­ent that may be ben­e­fi­cial to hu­mankind.

How­ever, where the con­tent may ap­pear un­palat­able, and may have a neg­a­tive im­pact on oth­ers, one must ex­er­cise dis­cre­tion and re­straint. For ex­am­ple, data in the form of still im­agery or video record­ings that con­tain grue­some images can be dev­as­tat­ing for those who may have been per­son­ally im­pacted by the oc­cur­rences that cre­ated those images.

So­cial-me­dia posts in­clude images of crime scenes and per­sons who have met their un­for­tu­nate demise in mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents, and from other un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances. For those who are re­spon­si­ble for these posts, and its sub­se­quent dis­tri­bu­tion, the im­age may mean noth­ing to them. How­ever, for those who are per­son­ally im­pacted by the im­me­di­ate hor­ror, it may be viewed as an in­sen­si­tive and care­less act.

Ad­di­tion­ally, we must con­sider that, over time, the re­peated view­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion of such images may serve to im­pair and po­ten­tially de­sen­si­tise our col­lec­tive so­cial con­sciences to the baser as­pects of our ex­is­tence. In the same thread, this prac­tice also fa­cil­i­tates and en­cour­ages some to un­wit­tingly be­come pur­vey­ors of ghoul­ish be­hav­iour and im­mor­tal­ity.

Be­fore post­ing, one should con­sider how this ben­e­fits so­ci­ety. Grue­some and graphic images are harm­ful, and we should be our brother’s keeper in the dig­i­tal world as in the nat­u­ral world. Post­ing should be done with care and great dis­cre­tion.

Let us use the In­ter­net to share our tal­ents.


A rule of thumb when post­ing per­sonal images is to al­ways pro­tect thy­self. Pro­tect, pro­tect, pro­tect! The free­dom to post, like any other free­dom, comes with at­ten­dant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Think care­fully be­fore you post. Each user must as­sess the per­sonal con­tent which is posted on so­cial me­dia and ask one’s self whether too much per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is ex­hib­ited for the world to see.

Can some­one eas­ily dis­cover your present phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion; who your spouse is; what your chil­dren look like; where your chil­dren at­tend school; where you have been to­day, by virtue of the chronol­ogy of per­sonal posts? What is the level of per­sonal in­tel­li­gence that is con­tained in your daily, some­times hourly thread of posts?

It may be wise, in some in­stances, to de­lay posts, and for oth­ers to re­frain from post­ing al­to­gether in or­der to avoid be­ing mon­i­tored on so­cial me­dia by un­wel­come per­sons.

Per­sonal pho­tos and videos should be man­aged care­fully.


So­cial-me­dia groups such as in­stant mes­sen­ger groups are use­ful and ben­e­fi­cial. They can be used as a means of up­dat­ing par­tic­i­pants on im­por­tant school events, work-re­lated dead­lines and events, and for a lot of other good.

When post­ing, a good rule of thumb is to ask your­self, “Is it nec­es­sary? Is it ap­pro­pri­ate for this fo­rum?” To avoid of­fend­ing, it is im­por­tant to re­main faith­ful to the pur­pose of the medium. A good rule of thumb is to en­sure that posts and mes­sages en­cour­age healthy and pro­duc­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Most im­por­tant, be re­spect­ful of your fel­low par­tic­i­pants within the group.

In this Cy­ber Aware­ness Month, let us post with care, ex­er­cise per­sonal safety, and lead by ex­am­ple in our use of so­cial me­dia for the com­mon good of all.


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