November 26, 2017

The Social Media Sewer

Sewer coverOne of the best things about the sewer that is today's social media is that one can choose not to play in it. I realize this probably sounds flippant, but I'm serious. When what one encounters on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else leads one to feel hopeless about the state of humanity, it might be time to take a break from social media. And if one eventually reaches the point of concluding that whatever benefits are to be gained from using social media are not worth the costs, one can even choose to opt out entirely.

I mention this because I think it is easy to forget that we have these options. I know plenty of people who have explored various social media platforms, decided that they held little appeal or that the bad outweighed the good, and have not used them since. I know others who were once heavy users of various social media platforms until they burned out or became disillusioned. They cite different reasons, but a common theme involves the irrationality and tribalism they encountered on social media. When I recently asked a friend why she abandoned Facebook, she replied, "It's nothing but people yelling at each other, and I don't see the appeal of that."

As for me, I think I've finally found a strategy with which I'm comfortable for the time being. I try to be selective about who I friend/follow, connecting with those who contribute something of value (even if I disagree with much of what they have to say). I'm quick to unfollow/unfriend people once they begin calling others names. It doesn't matter whether it is directed at me; behavior like that is not something I want to support. I also take breaks from social media when I find myself feeling disgusted at much of what passes for discourse these days.

When it comes to social media, the most important lesson I've learned so far is a simple one: I am responsible for what I decide to put up with online. If I don't like what I encounter, it is up to me to do something about it.