By Greg Price
There has been a firestorm of activity as of late on people’s character being questioned due to what has been surfacing on social media sites.
There are celebrities who have had nudes uncovered from hackers, stolen from the skies of iCloud. There’s several NFL players caught up in domestic violence cases, where their careers hang in the balance. Unless you have been living under a rock, there is the infamous drug-taking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. An off-the-cuff remark or private-life scene caught on Facebook can send someone’s life spiraling downward.
It has sparked conversations within my inner circle of friends and colleagues that you have to be ever so vigilant in keeping every aspect of your life private for fear you may lose control of it as it spirals down the drain of public opinion for what is viewed on social networks.
And I have to respectfully disagree. Be yourself, I say, in anyway you can. If there is a football player I am idolizing on Sundays, I want to know if that person secretly likes to beat their wives or children, then maybe I won’t idolize them so much.
You have a risqué photo you shot to spice up things between you and your husband that some hacker got a hold of, I’m not going to call you a harlot. What you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, and good on you for trying to keep that spark alive after many years of marriage or a committed relationship. It is the hacker that should be ridiculed and not the person with the intimate picture given the context.
I am no fan nor detractor of Rob Ford, but between all the images of videos we have seen of his heavy partying, has anyone stopped for a minute to see if he is actually doing a good job of what he was appointed to do, running the City of Toronto? I’ve read reports had Ford not withdrawn from the mayoral race due to battling cancer, he still would have had a good chance to win the race despite the carnival atmosphere because surprise, surprise, his economic and social policies had the electorate happy with the job he was doing. If your tenure on a job is keeping my taxes low, roads paved, hospitals humming and social programs plentiful, party hearty, I say.
We as the media hate it when corporations or politicians filter their message or image, so why is it OK for us? I’ve had people ask me how I can get so personal in some of the things I’ve written about in my columns in the past.
I always have the same answer. If I want people to open up about themselves to me in a personal story, revealing some of the more intimate details in their life, how can they not expect the same from me?
I am a person that wants very little hidden from people. I tend to be a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Yes, I enjoy my beer and you may see some Facebook pictures of me with a beer in my hand. If that brings to mind by some I must be a raving alcoholic, gunning a dozen beer every day then obviously they don’t know me … it’s 11 beers a day (kidding).
There may be some video surfacing of an upcoming 80s party of me dancing around a la’ Risky Business, does that make me any less capable of me doing my job as a newspaper editor? No, it simply means I have a sense of humour. I have my joke T-shirts, Seinfeldesque observations because I deal with enough seriousness in my job and read enough depressing stories that come over the newswire that it can make a man jaded. I need to know there is some light, joy and laughter in the world so I keep my private life goofy and light to keep my spirits up.
But do not think for a instant the guy wearing the ‘Free Contradictions $1.00’ T-shirt will not take someone to task in print in this town who I feel is doing wrong, or call something out in an editorial. But that is the problem of social media we are so badly trying to control.
You can see one image and complete strangers all the sudden know all of you. Case in point: Walking down the street you see two men. One is wearing a tailored three-piece suit, shiny shoes and a well-kept haircut. The other has tattoos all over their body, a bright-green mohawk and ripped jeans. On the surface, who would you trust more? Maybe that sharp-dressed man is a devoted father and husband, helps tutor at-risk youth and goes to church every Sunday and the mohawk man is a delinquent with a rap sheet a mile long.
But maybe not. Maybe the sharp-dressed man is working on a shady business deal that is milking seniors out of their life savings, beating their kids and being unfaithful to their wife while the man covered in tattoos is dishing up food at a soup kitchen, teaching guitar to troubled youths free of charge and loves his wife with all his heart and soul.
But I bet it will be the three-piece businessman who gets the benefit of the doubt every time.
And that is the problem with these images and video we see on social media we are so afraid of. You can have lived a life of relative goodness on the bigger scale of things and one image or video and society can bury you in the court of public opinion.
That’s why I would prefer to keep things as unfiltered as I can. I’m rough around the edges, no doubt about it. But when it comes right down to it, with the most important things in life, I’ll put my character up against anyone else and pass the litmus test more times than not. There are things that are black and white, right and wrong with no shade of grey in-between. If a man or woman can find compromise in the things they hold closest to their heart in embracing those shades of grey, they’ve been colour blind their whole lives.
So I’ll just continue to do what I do and if someone jumps to a conclusion based on some picture or video they see on social media that isn’t really me, so be it. In the end, it’s the people that are closest to me – family and friends whose opinion I care most about. I can’t live my life in fear, trying to project a filtered image that is not me. Take me for my strengths and weaknesses and judge me on the whole of my character’s life’s work — not just one image that may show up on the Internet.