September 4, 2016

Tiring of the Social Media Outrage

social media

In April of 2013, I wrote a post in which I reported that my decision to stop watching cable news in December of the previous year led me to feel far less angry. For the most part, I kept the cable news turned off until 2015 when my curiosity about how they were covering Donald Trump got the best of me. I'm far more judicious with my cable news viewing these days than I was prior to the end of 2012, and that may explain why my limited watching during the past year has not seemed to have a noticeable effect on my mood.

This got me thinking about a different sort of media. If turning off the cable news, which I had been watching daily prior to December of 2012, led me to feel less angry, what might limiting my exposure to social media do? This seems like something worth trying.

My use of Facebook is already pretty low. I'd estimate that I spend no more than five minutes per day on Facebook, and that might even be a bit high. I could cut it back further, and I think this would be worth trying. I feel like 98% of what I see on Facebook these days involves attempts to provoke outrage in response to subjects I consider to be trivial, virtue signaling, or statements by so-called freethinkers that suggest they've missed the point of freethought entirely. I almost always feel worse after spending even a couple minutes on Facebook. This seems like enough evidence to suggest that I should at least try spending less time with it.

I've always had a much better experience with Twitter and enjoyed it far more than Facebook. Still, it often seems as though many of the atheists I follow are using Twitter primarily to argue with others. I'm glad they enjoy this so much, but I have little interest in it. The constant outrage and "clever" but thoroughly unoriginal insults aimed at religious believers (and atheists who fail to toe the line of one's preferred political allegiances) don't really do it for me. I could stand to be more selective about who I follow. Complaining about how the people I follow use Twitter is not much different than complaining about a TV show I'm watching while refusing to change the channel. Still, if I'm not quite ready to unfollow a couple hundred people, it might also be worth limiting the time I spend on Twitter to see if that makes any difference.

Until yesterday, I had no idea who Lena Dunham was. I had to Google her after my Twitter timeline filled up with mentions of her name. Even after Googling her, I'm still not sure who she is or why I should be outraged by anything she says or does. I gather that she's some sort of actress, but I fail to see why that compels me to pay attention to her. And while I am familiar with Colin Kaepernick and support his right to free expression (as well as anyone who refuses to blindly follow tradition for whatever reason), I suppose I am more interested in the question of what the national anthem has to do with sports events. I have never felt that it belonged at such events. When it comes to social media outrage, it seems like we need to learn how to resist the distractions and do a better job of moral triage.

If I cut back on the amount of time I spend on social media, will I feel better? I'm not sure, but this was certainly the case for cable news. In any event, it seems like it might at least be worth a try.
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