Friday, October 7, 2016

Social media—like any other system created by human beings—is what we make it. So why not make it a system for good?

I’ve always found ironic the comments I hear many people make about the social media sites they use. Such people will complain about this in conversation, as well as freely post such comments on the very site that offends them so much. What people seem to forget is that social media sites—like any other communications systems created by human beings—are what we make them to be. 

So, if we think Facebook, for example, is full of negativity, then instead of adding more negativity to it by complaining about what it has become, why don’t we make it what we want it to be? 

There are so many people using Facebook in such a variety of ways, that it’s become a world of its own, encompassing multiple sub-cultures within it. It’s an accurate two-dimensional reflection of the same human behavior patterns in the three-dimensional world around us. This means that if we complain about what we see on Facebook, we’re really complaining about the world around us. 

People have always acted in ways we’d consider fake, or stupid, or shallow, or excessively negative, or who find entertainment value in making other people upset because they like the attention it generates for them. 

When I hear people complain about how mad they get reading insincere, ignorant, or offensive content on Facebook, I ask them, “Then why on earth do you keep reading it?” 

If we continue reading and complaining about what we find objectionable on Facebook, we actually make the problem worse. If we do feel compelled to jump in to correct someone’s error based on facts, what would be the most helpful is to find a way to turn such clashes into dialogue rather than heated arguments that go off on all kinds of weird tangents. Then, if our efforts don’t seem to pay off even after we give it our best effort while maintaining our own dignity and not stooping to the offender’s level by becoming insulting and crass ourselves, and the other person still wants to argue and insult, then at least we have done our duty in rebuking slander, by leaving a record of it for others to see and decide for themselves which of the beliefs expressed are the most conducive to creating a more humane and enjoyable marketplace of ideas. 

Social media sites are simply an online version of the conversations that have always taken place in coffee houses, pubs, around the water cooler, at family dinners, and grocery store checkout lines, to name a few. Since we are the ones who made these online services what they are today, then we are the ones with the responsibility and the power to make them better if we find them lacking. 

We’re already overloaded enough in this digital age, so why make it any harder on ourselves by refusing to filter what we expose ourselves to on social media? If your Facebook news feed upsets you, don’t read it! If you see a lot of negativity posted on Facebook, post something positive! 

I decided to see Facebook as an ideal way to share encouraging ideas and spread some good vibrations amongst people whom I otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have weekly opportunities to share such content with, or tell them what’s up with me lately or respond to what’s up with them. This is what Facebook was created for. So if we see it going down the tubes, and we keep using Facebook anyway, then let’s channel that energy instead into making it what we want rather than waste our time logging on to and supporting something we’re complaining we don’t want.

Illustration by Karla Joy Huber, 2011; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker

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