In the era when Facebook knows you enjoy Chinese takeaway on a Saturday night and Google can tell you where you parked your car this morning, anonymity and privacy are a rare commodity. But when is it time for us to stop hiding behind a Tal-Lira-V-For-Vendetta mask?
Like the tastiness of your home-cooked meal or the deep, burning love you have for your three-month partner, society’s need to hide behind a false identity is exaggerated on Facebook.
As a general rule of thumb, if the comments you’re making about someone are not ones you’d like attached to your name, you probably shouldn’t be saying them.
And if you’re not sure about the existence of trolling profiles, wait till an election rolls around. During that time, the only thing surging higher than the number of unsolicited text messages you receive (that are just there to wish you well, promise) are fake profiles.
“Like the deep, burning love you have for your three-month partner, society’s need to hide behind a false identity is amplified on Facebook”
They say you should dance like nobody is watching, but what they forget to add on is that you should send texts like everybody is.
Everything is recorded and saved, so you’ll never know when a cheeky screenshot is going to start making the rounds. And just FYI: “I didn’t think anyone was going to read the chat where I said I hope Ira Losco gets violent diarrhoea” is not going to make the general public forgive the fact that you wished Malta’s sweetheart wet farts for the rest of her life.
Some of the uproar was funny to experience (remember when people got angry over a piece of black silk?) and other times the threats of violence felt overwhelming. But I still did it, because I’m privileged enough to stand by what I say. And let’s be honest: in Malta, most people are.
Since my job involves a lot of public opinions, yes, I have gotten it wrong sometimes. But as long as my opinion was not bigoted, harmful or inciting violence, I’m OK with admitting when I was wrong.
I’d much rather own it, learn, and grow from it.
“FYI: “I didn’t think anyone was going to read the chat where I said I hope Ira Losco gets violent diarrhoea” is not going to make the general public forgive the fact that you wished Malta’s sweetheart wet farts”
Sometimes, people don’t have the same privilege as I do when it comes to being opinionated online. For some, their livelihood could be taken away from them for sharing their thoughts; again, please remember that “I think It’s Morris is better than Dejjem Tieg?ek Becky” is an opinion, “I think gay people are inferior” is hate speech.
Because of this, journalists always respect the right to anonymity from their sources… and with good reason.
An individual divulging dangerous (but important) information could be at risk of physical harm or financial destruction if their name is tied to a story. But that fear shouldn’t stop the news reaching the public, and it should be done without endangering the person brave enough to speak out.
But sometimes a source can feel like they’re having a James Bond moment, but all they’re really doing is faffing about like Johnny English.
When it’s your job to publicly represent a locality or community, why should you stay hidden when the only fear you have is that of losing votes? If you know there’s some behind-the-scenes bullshit going down, staying silent in the public eye can be as bad as being complicit.
A journalist will always continue to protect your right to remain anonymous, but why are we only brave and macho when messaging on WhatsApp threads… or leaking screenshots of them?
Maltese politicians love to play the ‘staying together for the family’ card. They’ll call or send messages about the state from inside a party, but won’t speak out against it publicly. Perhaps they haven’t realised that a ‘party’s whip’ isn’t a physical one… or perhaps they just want someone else to do the heavy-lifting for them.
The only time you should be scared to voice your opinion, and not the opinion that is expected of you, is when you’re at a Mariah Carey concert with me.
Now, this isn’t a post about the overused line ‘it’s my opinion’ nor a discussion on ‘imbasta freedom of speech – those two are Shady Takedowns for another Sunday. It’s just about owning what what you say, and leaving the internet’s anonymity for niche porn searches and buying your loved one a surprise gift.