Last week was a tough one for me, like it was for so many of you, I imagine. I wanted to turn off the news, yet I was also drawn to it. Persecution, prosecution, discrimination, recrimination. The unfairness of life. By the end of the week, I was experiencing a myriad of feelings – confusion, hopelessness, guilt, desperation, among them, yet also knowing this country is my home, and there’s no place else I’d rather live.
In the middle of the week, I received a friendly message that I’ve been a Facebook user for seven years, and I reflected on how it’s become a part of my daily life.
I lamented the copious amount of time lost watching videos of dancing puppies, taking quizzes to know where I should retire, learning the one hundredth way I can make something with chicken in a crock pot… you get the idea.
I pondered the benefits of connecting with new writing friends, and reconnecting with high school classmates, former co-workers, lapsed friends, and even family members, and I smiled. I never knew my sister watched every single game of the Milwaukee Brewers, and could talk about the players as if they were extended family members!
I also contemplated ALL of the posts encouraging a stand on social issues, the pronouncements and denouncements of political candidates, elected officials and public servants like police officers; the posting, liking and sharing of messages filled with vitriol and hate and rumor and insinuation, regardless of truth.
And now we have Facebook Live which can stream in real time, events as they are unfolding. This was used during the recent police killing of the man in Minnesota.
Facebook and to a lesser degree Twitter, and I imagine other social media platforms I’m not familiar with, have become open forums for the angry, the opinionated and often, the uninformed, or at least, ill-informed whose only intent is to inflame people around an issue, regardless of the consequences, and that’s when I get concerned about the impact on a civil society.
When it is that easy to manipulate people behind half-truths, one sided stories, photoshopped pictures, is it any wonder we are living in a state of heightened anxiety filled with all sorts of divisions? Hey, this doesn’t always have to be something related to the mood of the nation – I’ve seen family and personal issues escalate because of what was posted on Facebook. This always leaves me scratching my head about the judgement of the people, but Facebook has no entry requirements.
It’s easy to impulsively post something, think about it, go back and edit or delete, but by that time, it’s too late – the message has been read and interpreted, and opinions have been formed. I have personally learned this lesson.
So, bottom line… I think all of us who use social media have a responsibility that starts with what we choose to post, like or share. What is it we hope to accomplish?
This I can tell you about myself. I do not believe my opinion on a social matter or political campaign/ elected official has ever been influenced by social media. On the other hand, my opinion about the person posting it? You bet. Maybe that’s not fair. But social media’s not always about being fair. And that’s the problem.