March 16, 2017

Social Media Ultimatums

UltimatumI realize it is mid-March (the constant stream of college basketball games on my TV is a good clue), but I've been giving the matter of New Year's resolutions some thought lately. I think I'd like to make some changes in my use of social media. In addition to reducing the overall amount of time I spend on social media in order to reduce outrage fatigue and maintain at least a bit of "faith" in humanity, I'm interested in making the limited time I do spend more useful and more constructive. To do that, I plan to maximize the number of freethinkers I follow while simultaneously reducing the overall number of people I follow to something more manageable. In essence, that means being more selective about who I follow.

I am tired of complaining about the poor behavior of others I see on social media. Since I neither have nor desire the ability to control their behavior, I'm going to change my social media experience by gradually eliminating the bad actors and seeking out more reasonable voices. Of course, I will be very careful to make sure I am maintaining ideological diversity as I do so. That remains important to me, and I am not interested in any ideological bubbles.

Reject Tribalism

The first thing I plan to do in service of this goal is to remove those who seem to offer little more than political tribalism from my Twitter timeline and Facebook newsfeed. Those who use their social media accounts primarily to disparage those with whom they disagree (e.g., Trump supporters) will be the first to go. Not only is this behavior inconsistent with freethought, but I find it to be counterproductive. I recognize that I am in a minority here, but that is not why I use social media.

Obviously, I am going to keep following people who oppose Trump (and people who support Trump). What I am talking about here is getting rid of those who are unwilling to oppose (or support) Trump on the basis of his ideas or actions and who have instead devoted their social media accounts almost entirely to insulting their political opponents. I welcome reasoned criticism (or praise) of Trump's ideas, policies, and the like; however, I have no interest in the constant name calling of anyone who dares to hold different opinions.

Social Media Ultimatums are Silly

The second thing I'll do is grant the wishes of anyone I see issuing social media ultimatums. Have you noticed how common social media ultimatums have become these days? I've seen them on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr with what seems like increasing frequency. There are many varieties, but they typically take the form of this:
If you like x, just unfollow me now.
or
If you disagree with me on x, unfriend me now.
Since I am trying to be more selective, I've decided to unfriend, unfollow or un-whatever else anyone who posts this sort of thing regardless of my position on x. Why? These ultimatums tell me that this person is not only not a freethinker but is likely someone who is unwilling to expose himself or herself to diverse perspectives. That being the case, I suspect that there is little value to me in following them.

Going Where the Value Is

I am beginning to view the experience of social media as something akin to watching television. If I watch bad television, I am not going to enjoy the experience. And if I refuse to stop watching bad television, I have nobody but myself to blame for having a bad experience. Social media is not that different. If I follow people who hold little value, I am going to have a bad experience. It is up to me to improve that experience just as it is up to me to change the channel of the TV.

And so, I am looking at this particular social media experiment as my attempt to make more of a deliberate effort to go where the value is. I aspire to follow more freethinkers who use social media to share thought-provoking ideas, useful tips, and so on. That is what I am interested in. I see no value in perpetual outrage and name calling.
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