Social media has been less social and more media recently.
I don’t even know what that means exactly, but there’s a difference. I prefer social.
Before, I could depend on social media to inform me of goings-on, but it has escalated into something that I can’t understand. In the name of being heard people are at each other’s throats, shouting over each other and drowning everything out. Opinions fly; tempers flare. Everyone says the same thing, but throw in a misused word or the whisper of judgment and intolerance reigns. Nobody communicates as well on the internet as they do in real conversation, and never is that so apparent as in social media.
My online haven was filling with impulsive talk of hatred, judgment, anger and outrage. Attacking became the daily fare there, and after just enough time tolerating the fighting, I grew tired of its uselessness.
So I cut back.
The result was that I stopped hearing the arguing and the judgments against judgments that insist that judgments are wrong. In effect, I changed the channel.
When hate and outrage against hate and pointing fingers at what’s wrong and who’s wrong was the name of the game, I stopped being a spectator. I know what’s right and wrong and feel awful about some things I see in the world and I do what I can to live my life and stay my course.
When my son was a baby, four planes crashed into three buildings and a field and thousands of people were killed. My husband and I watched the news about this event around the clock. We couldn’t do anything about it but watch and live our lives and be conscientious of how we were living.
In the years that followed we read the newspaper and watched the evening news to inform ourselves of current events. I usually skipped the Op-Ed section of the newspaper because while I know that people are free to voice their opinions in this country, mine - like most people’s - are rarely swayed by another person’s opinion. Plus, there was usually ranting, and I experienced enough ranting from my toddlers at home.
I’m on social media a little bit these days, spending most of my time on Facebook in fun groups and chatting with friends and checking out pictures of friends’ kids and wishing people Happy Birthday, often a day late, because that’s how I roll socially.
I still get my news from the news and not from my friends’ opinions. That rule of manners that says to stay away from hot button issues like politics and religion in conversations may be old fashioned and unpracticed, but there is a thread of politeness that can be sustained.
I can listen to your views. You can listen to mine. We agree on most things, but I believe in x, y and z, and you believe in a, b, and c. I like you. You like me. We don’t have to convince each other of anything, do we? This is a free country. We can believe in some different things and not hack each other up. But we both have to agree to do that for it to work. Let’s try it.
After all, the news will come and go, but you’re my neighbor, and we might need to depend on each other more than anyone else in the world at some point.