Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Has Social Media Made Us Meaner?

I recently posted a status update on my personal Facebook page about getting control of a few things in my life. A friend, someone I’ve known for many years, commented: “If you can control all that, why can’t you control your weight?”

And I can’t begin to count the number of posts I’ve seen, on various pages, that end with someone being advised to “just go kill yourself.”

So I began to wonder: Has social media made us meaner?

We live in an age of 24 hour access to information. “Information” does not necessarily equal facts. 

We live in an age where more and more people tend to access information that follows in lockstep with a person’s personal beliefs. Along with that we have cyberbullying, especially among younger folks, thanks to the perceived total anonymity of the internet. Professional cyberbullies are quite adept at covering their tracks; amateurs – not so much. Young men and women are bullied to the point of suicide. This needs to stop.

We clamor for video proof of an incident, yet some folks will still argue that what is seen in the video is not what actually happened. I think it’s unfortunate that, in most situations, we never see video of any particular incident from beginning to end. Even when we do, some folks still aren’t convinced.

Too often we simply read a headline, and that’s what we comment on. A recent item at about a Muslim woman who was afraid to wear the hijab in public had several comments of the “if you’re afraid, go home” variety. She’s a native St. Louisan. She is home.

Most recently I saw many, many comments on the National Archives’ Facebook page on items about LGBTQ history. What we post as history others see as political, or as an attempt “to shove [something] down our throats.” It seems that many people post things that they would never say to someone’s face. Why? And why are so many losing their ability to see things in a historical perspective?

I frequently remember something a friend once told me. She said she has to choose to be offended.

I’m also reminded of a bumper sticker I once saw. To paraphrase: “How much of a [jerk] someone is usually depends on their distance from the accuser.”

In other words, if they’re a mile away, the accuser shouts it at the top of their lungs. If the two are face to face, not quite so audibly.

Are we all a million miles from each other when we’re online?

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