Return to Social Media

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I have this sort of love-hate relationship with social media in the last few years.

I love the additional social contact, and I certainly love the reminders I can get for whose birthday or anniversary is when, and I love what is ultimately a pooled source of entertainment and news, if properly vetted, that I wouldn’t ordinarily have.

But I hate, well, what I hate about social media is probably encapsulated in the idea that before there was such a thing as social media, I naturally assumed that everyone had a basic grasp of reality and the social niceties. Neither of which appears to actually be the case.

Blind dogma following.

Alternative facts spouting.

“My opinions is as good as facts.”

I saw it on the Internet so it must be true.

I can’t let reality get in the way of my sincerely held opinion or belief.

It doesn’t matter if this thing I’m sharing is four years old and was debunked three years and 364 days ago, or if this missing child was found the day after they were lost in 2009, or whatever. I think I’m helping, so I’m helping.

While I do think a relatively small overall percent of the population fits into any of those categories, those who do tend to be vocal and clog up the vacuum tubes that keep things running.

I’ve already had suggestions that rather than divorce myself from social media altogether, I should just cull my friends list, unfollow or unfriend all the people who are turning what should be a positive experience into a negative one overall. I’ll admit that I have done a little bit of this, for particularly egregious examples of the cultural poisons the internet seems to breed.

But I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I like having access to a variety of opinions and thought processes that differ from my own. Those differences are good for healthy discussion and growth, questioning my own beliefs and opinions and trying to live the most truthful, reality-based life that I can.

But I’m also really, really tired of the part of things where some people feel they’re allowed to be as obnoxious, offensive, or dismissive as they like online interactions, somehow feeling justified by the fact that since they’re staring at a computer instead of sitting across the table from someone else, they don’t have to be.

In fairness, you do see that sometimes in in the real world. After certain points moving far enough to the right or left, there does seem to be a relatively widely held idea that if you shout something loud enough and long enough that it becomes the truth. On the left, and not even as far, there also seems to be a trend that unless we agree on absolutely everything, we can’t be friends.

Which is ridiculous.

We are not all the same. We will not always agree. If there’s something you and I completely disagree on, we can talk about it and try to see each other’s point of view. If it always results in bad feelings, we can agree not to talk about that single issue for now and talk about other things we can make progress on.

If that describes someone on my friend list, I probably still want whatever relationship, however tenuous, we have to continue exist, and I wish them well. I hope never to hit the point with anyone where I have to block or unfriend them, but it does happen.

So what does that mean for me and social media?

It means I’ve slowly come back over the last few weeks from the break I took early in the year because while there a small fraction of my friends list I think I’ll need to block or unfriend eventually, it’s not the whole list, not by a long shot.

I can see the things I want (including birthday reminders) and get the diversity of opinions and ideas I need without having to cut off that piece of my interactions, especially during the current crisis where in-person interaction is on hold for most of us.

I wear my politics and social views openly and that makes it easy for people to disagree, and that’s okay. In the past, because I always have hope, I’ve made attempts at communication long after the other party has proven they just want to be a noisy troll. But eventually it becomes a fool’s hope and when it does I will cut things off. Sometimes I’m rewarded, though.

The whole point of social media is that it’s social and it’s media. It allows me to have the interactions that I want and to have more of them than I could ever manage in only real life, and it provides me with crowd-curated sources of media, admittedly biased, flawed, and in need of checking, that I can use to expand my views and ideas.

Like so much else, social media is what you make of it.

And right now, we all need to make the most of it, I think.

Be well, everyone.

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