To post or not to post —

that is the 21st century question

There was a time when “not to be” unfortunately happened faster than any of us could imagine, lots of times in horrendous ways. Many times it happened due to lack of medicine, food or other necessities and even more often for what we consider minor offenses today. Nevertheless, this famous quote needs to be replaced by a more up-to-speed one; a quote that fits the narrative of most people’s life each day, especially those in developed countries and where too much free time is often the problem! Before emphasizing this new and improved quote, we must consider that not all actors in the Facebook drama have cruel intentions nor only seek personal gratification. Many have actually posted comments, statements, materials, videos and writings that saved lives, educated others, reached out to the better angels of our nature and in many ways may have made the world a better place.

A few years after living overseas, I found Facebook to be a great means for communicating just about anything in various ways and forms fast and efficient, letting all my friends and loved ones know what I’m doing, if I’m safe after an earthquake, tayphoon, or a man induced disaster and when I am going to visit home again. Often times, a message or post is suitable for quite a few people and can be sent to all at once. Many of them live thousands of miles away, thus, the good old saying now applies more than ever “An image speaks a thousand words”. A family picture here and there, a picture at work, another with friends, one on a trip and another at home, pretty much tells friends and family all they want to know or have time for.

I’ve been posting on Facebook for years without anything out of the ordinary. I don’t post often and I haven’t even updated my current job. But needless to say, I use Facebook for all the current and past courses I teach. I find it much easier to post materials, communicate and especially to get my students’ attention in a day and age when not many other things will, particularly essential ones. Additionally, it’s always a special feeling when those in your circle of life tag you and share a special moment caught on a picture or video. , Unfortunately, some posts can have effects long and wide that we cannot control, nor could we actually imagine their consequences.

I recently bought a second hand motorcycle for about $1,500. It is a superb deal as the bike has less than 20 K miles and it rides like a dream. Since where I live only motorcycles above 250 cc are allowed on some of the fast roads, this bike comes in handy. I don’t show it off, thus, many people and even family don’t even know I have it. I’m not so keen in in showing off material possessions of little significance but rather more interested in showing off intellectual ones, if any!

One day, my wife took a picture of me and the girls on the bike as she found it to be a great “Kodak” moment and then of course she tagged me. Next thing I knew, I received a message from a young man I met in India about 8 years ago. I and my wife (my girlfriend at the time) went on a volunteering trip to India where we visited a young boy that we used to support through school. During the trip, we met nice and interesting people, most of them dirt poor. Among them, we met a family that had three boys, not poor by India’s standards and visited them on a few occasions during our trip since they lived close by the place we’re volunteering at. We kept in touch through Facebook over the years.

Over the years, many of the people we met often messaged us to ask for money but due to my unstable job and having a family, we could only help a few financially. Upon seeing the motorcycle, this boy we met (now a youngster, probably 18 or 19 years old at this point) went and bought a brand new motorcycle (about twice as much money what I paid for mine) and then asked me if I could send him some money so he can make his monthly payments. I remembered he did asked me a couple of times in recent months about sending him some money so that he could buy his dream motorbike, but at the time, I was struggling with part-time teaching jobs, my research and people that were/are constantly screwing me for money in various ways (not paying for my work, not paying rent, etc.). So I told him the truth, I was barely making enough to survive and take care of my family and I could not do it. I mean it’s one thing if he needed money to eat and another to buy his dream bike.

It’s rather interesting that I often encountered this situation in with many poor people in different places worldwide. Such people don’t often ask you to help them get strict necessities, but rather, things you don’t have yourself or would not buy yourself for practical reasons. I never dreamed to get an iPhone yet, because it is not a priority, but I was asked if I could provide one. In another place, someone asked me if I could give him money to buy a bicycle so he can get to work. When I offered to buy him a second hand one, he refused it and was quite vocal about why not just buy him a new one. While traveling in the Philippines I met people that wanted me to give them money so they could buy a smart phone, of course, better than the one I had myself. I told one of them, “I’ll give you a second hand one as good as the one I have”, but you wouldn’t believe the nerves some of these people have. Go figure! I find it ridiculous that many people I meet in poor countries automatically assume that I have all this money and I buy everything new. No, I don’t for the millionth time! I never bought a new car, a new motorcycle for myself or a new bicycle for my kids yet and I don’t know if that day will ever come. The fact is, I’m frugal and resourceful and always bargain for the last penny if possible when I buy something (mostly second hand of course)!

“Oh no”, I was thinking, for sure this young man saw the Facebook post and he perhaps felt it what better time then after seeing my post is to get his dream motorbike? Since it could hopefully turn into a good lesson for this young man, I reached out to him and said,

“Did you actually read the post or you only looked at the picture? Do you know this is a second hand motorbike and I made sure I got the best deal in town on top of the fact that I use it for riding to my work and not to show it off? Do you also know that if I have an emergency I can sell it for more than what I paid for it initially? Now I want to ask why you did what you did without making sure you had the means?”

He said, “I’m sorry sir. I made a big mistake, but I saw your motorbike and it just looked so nice and I’ve been dreaming for mine a long time. If I don’t make the payment this month, they will take it away. Can you please help me?”

Great, so he had to go buy a new one so he can impress his friends and serve his ego using an FB post as the excuse and motivator. This really makes it hard to help people like him which unfortunately are plenty. Some people can’t even afford to pay for used items but, no, they have to have brand new ones! It’s interesting how a post that many of us will think nothing of, can influence decisions of people across the world, some decisions out there a whole lot worse than the one mentioned here. The question is, how to teach this kid to fish instead of giving him a fish for a bad decision? Can social media be a means of teaching him a valuable lesson?

Unfortunately, there’s a recent trend around the world, that of deplatforming people on various social networks, in particular Facebook and YouTube for the most trivial of things; ironically, it usually happens to those that actually try to do good and to make the world a better place in their posts. A good example is Tarek Fatah; a great voice of reason gets banned from FB, while terrorists, haters, lowlifes and ISIS members get to keep their accounts and use them to serve their abhorring purposes. The social media giants don’t seem to care about impacts of posts from radicals and lowlifes on the entire world while vilifying and banning those that are making a much better impact on society. You can never be too careful with your posts these days and never worry that what you post can not come back to hunt you in some way any day! Thus, the good old “To be or not to be” should certainly be upgraded to “To post or not to post, that is the question”.