I found a post from Writer’s Circle on Facebook – with a 30 day writing challenge. This is day 1: 5 problems with social media.
I have a long standing love / hate relationship with social media. It took me forever to get on the Twitter train and now I wish that train would pull into the station so I could get off. Facebook was reserved for family members only, to share pictures of the wee face, as she grew. Now it’s a page for people I met for five minutes at a conference. A few years ago, I was living a life of quiet introspection. Fuck that. I was alone. My marriage was falling apart. I had a young daughter and I was running a business. I had little time for those things called friends and so put no effort into that side of my life. Social media to the rescue.
I made some online friends – some of whom have become very dear to me. This is the love side of social media. There are people who I think (or at least I dearly hope) would give a shit if I lived or died. Admittedly, it’s a much smaller circle than my actual circle of ‘friends’, ‘twitter followers’ or whatever, but it’s there and it’s there because of social media. I would never have ‘met’ these people otherwise.
Since the demise of my marriage and the selling of the business, I’ve also found social media helpful in getting the word out that I am available. For work. The other kind of available is a non-starter. ALL the clients I have right now were garnered through the power of social media. So that’s another check in the love SoMe column.
Social media can be very powerful. I saw people rallying around a woman whose son had died: total strangers coming forward and doing a little something to make her and her family’s life easier. I’ve seen a man who was threatening suicide rescued by his fellow Tweeters picking up the message and finding him before it was too late. Elections are discussed, people are involved. It’s a strong tool, like Star Wars and the Force, if used for the power of good.
Then there is the hate side. This post is supposed to be about 5 problems with social media but really, there is one problem from which emanate a bunch of other related problems. The main problem is that like all mediums, like the Force, if it goes to the dark side, it can be very dark indeed. People tweeting an offhand comment lose their livelihoods. The knives and pitchforks come out in some anonymous group think that forces other people into hiding. No, I don’t think lions should be hunted for sport but I also don’t think that threatening to kill the man who did it is a reasonable response. Threatening his family is even worse. The almost daily examples of this kind of lynch mob mentality are exhausting.
Social media seems to expose the best and the worst in humanity, raw and unvarnished. Is it the anonymity? Is it that we are predisposed to these extremes and social media gave us a way to show them to the world beyond our own personal group? Recently, I read an article about something or other in parenting – I won’t get into the details here because the topic of the article is NOT the point of my bringing it up. The point is that I got upset about the contents, revealing my own lack of self-confidence when it comes to this aspect of parenting. I was complaining about it to my mother and she asked me: “Why do you pay attention to what some random people have said on Twitter? What does it matter to you?” She’s right of course. Without the context of actually knowing these people, and of them actually knowing me, why would what they have to say affect me? Like an author reading a negative review of their book, I have to learn to take it in stride and with a grain of salt; or perhaps with a whole shaker worth.
Social media a useful tool for breaking news but the headlines that come with journalistic integrity are followed by the comments that just defeat me. And like all those of us struck with FOMO, I watch. I watch in horror as someone else is hung out with the laundry. I watch and wonder when it will be my turn. I wonder who it is that has the time to sit there and comment about everything under the sun. And then I realize that I too am sitting there, reading the comments.
So every few months, I vow to sign off social media. It lasts for a few days. And then I’m back. It’s a part of our world now, like it or not. Hence, the defeat.
Post image from Writer’s Circle for the challenge, in case you want to take it too: