It feels like we’re inching close to election seasons in several countries at present. All of a sudden, there is an increase in the level of sensationalism that is expressed in media outlets. Social media platforms are also more likely to carry highly emotive exchanges of opinion between account holders. I am conscious of my personal ground rules with regard to my online presence – I won’t do or say anything online that I wouldn’t do or say on stage.
I remember a time when it was heartening to reconnect with old friends, acquaintances and long lost relatives on these platforms. I’m glad that the world has become smaller in some ways, or perhaps it is that people find it easier to be in touch with folks from their pasts. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the ways in which events of the present could easily shift the dynamics of these relationships.
During the last phase of elections, I felt the need to withhold my thoughts and feelings on several occasions, because there was always the possibility that a friend or acquaintance could take umbrage at my utterances, which could in some cases lead to diminishing returns of good will.
In other cases, uncouth associates of some acquaintances would feel emboldened enough to barge in on conversations that nothing to do with them, simply because political views were being expressed online.
There was an instance when someone I’ve never met before went so far as to trawl through my personal profile page, looking for posts of mine that he could use to somehow accuse me of being hypocritical, or having double standards. When he did this, I felt like my personal boundaries were violated and the acquaintance we share in common did very little to upbraid his friend for his behaviour. My relationship with the original friend is distinctly cooler nowadays. Perhaps there are lessons for many of us to learn from this experience, as we approach a new season of hurling brickbats at each other.