Some days I open my Facebook page to find myself in the midst of a social media war zone. Social media is fast becoming less and less of a pleasure for many of us. I have many friends who have left Facebook or Twitter entirely and some who are deliberately avoiding those and other social media sites, for many months now, even a year. Some are never coming back. What could possibly be behind this shift in the wind where so many are taking leave of an almost anti-social place we once thought fun and social? While my own ongoing observations and opinions may not be one hundred percent conclusive, I think with my years online I know at least a couple of reasons why this is happening.
People don’t “hear” you right. Yes, I said “hear.” Too many jump to conclusions over almost nothing and all of their communication thereafter is based entirely on “their own” misguided assumptions and not a single thing you said or shared. For example, I posted a funny last year about Facebook use that said things like: we would never share our meals, our private homes, our children, our travels etc with strangers on the street and yet we will share them madly with virtual strangers on Facebook. For this post I received a lot of laughs and one lengthy lecture on Facebook use. I dared reply to the lecture in a reasonable fashion and found myself promptly blocked. Over-stuffed egos exist all over Social Media and I believe they are one of the main reasons we cannot be fairly “heard.”
Just the other day I was taken to task for using the word “should” – yes, it’s true! I actually replied and should not have because anytime we are justifying, we should stop or it could go on forever. Which it was. So I stopped and deleted everything I had said as well as blocked the person who appeared on a mission to hammer me no matter what I said because she could not “hear” me anyway. No matter what I said, my single innocent use of the word “should” continued to offend her and only when I stepped away did I realize she will never ever “hear” me or anyone else using the word “should” who intended no ill or no malice toward her or others on the thread. I found myself suddenly being skewered because she cannot “hear” properly and obviously has some intense mental health issues around the word “should.”
Which leads me to another problem I have witnessed on Facebook. We have no way of knowing who suffers from mental health issues and answering them or communicating with them in any way at all can lead to huge communication problems because nobody ever announces: “I have mental health issues,” they just join in and you find out for yourself as they unravel online.
Political postings have no place in my social media. I know some live and breathe politics but Facebook is not the place to shove your beliefs, political, religious or otherwise, down people’s throats. We get enough of that stuff on television, in our newspapers and on the radio as well as in phone calls to our homes and door knockers who should also know better by now. Trust me when I say we don’t need those things regurgitated daily in our social media feed. Try starting your own blog about the issues you care about instead. This way you instantly improve your social media presence and have a great place for the like minded to gather without ruining the social media experiences of others.
Ranting is another indulgence I see happening all too often. What gives with that? Wouldn’t an hour or two with an actual therapist help you better than dumping all over the heads of your social media friends? Besides, who has all that time to write pages long rants nobody gives a damn about…I sure don’t. Though I, admittedly, have indulged in ranting myself once or twice in the past, I swiftly learned ranting is the perfect way to repel readers and friends.
These may not suit everyone but, based on my own experiences and observations, I have developed a few Social Media guidelines that may, eventually, help lift the experience for everyone:
- Regurgitated news. If it was already on the news in the newspaper, on the television or on the radio, don’t share and share and share and share and share and share and share…you get the picture. Nobody needs regurgitated news casts. Nobody.
- Never assume anything. Before you pounce to post your piece in answer to another’s post or share, slow down a bit and ask some questions. For example, “I get this from your post/share, is that what you really meant or believe?” See? Simple.
- NO LECTURING! We are all big people who do just fine without the lecture by, obviously, self-centered arrogant judgers who think you must hear what they have to say. No, we must not. Period. You do your thing on your pages and I do mine, it’s called “respect.” If you feel an urge to lecture, just cast it aside and move on silently or risk permanently showing us who you really are all over social media. Your choice.
- Attacking others. If you are going to take someone to task for anything whether it is a single word you misinterpret or assuming they are trying to “sell” their blog or anything else or a even a post they share that you do not like, make sure you know them well enough in the REAL world to justify your lofty assumptions and even then if you must do it, take them to task PRIVATELY. Otherwise, recognize it is just your own prickly issue and nobody really gives a damn or needs to see your ego spout off on their own social media page. Just move on. Quietly.
- Chain letters have no place in my social media world. If it wasn’t bad enough people tried to scare us out of our wits in the snail mail over decades past, fear mongering us to participate in some silliness, now we have to put up with this online. No. We don’t. Anyone who posts anything that says I will die by morning if I don’t play along is likely right in some sense. I will permanently disappear off their radar, that much is certain. No chain shares/letters, please and thank you.
- On to games now…let the games begin. Seriously, you have all that time to play games and keep sending me invites? What the hell. I barely have time in a day to block that garbage but I do because it’s the only way I can be assured of not having to see it again. Badgering people to play by sending constant invites means the games get blocked and maybe eventually you will, too. Play if you wish but don’t nag others.
- Blind support. Racing to show blind support for something unworthy of all that time and effort is neither fair nor productive. If two people are in an exchange that goes south, let them sort it out which they will or they will drop it as I have seen many times online. Many times I have also seen “blindly jumping in” escalate the situation into a war like conflict over something that was not even worth the time and keystrokes in the first place. Conserve time and keystrokes for what really matters. Blind support achieves nothing.
- Friending people just because you can is unwise. If you have a real world or online connection, that’s great (mine online are writing groups, support groups and family groups). I usually accept those I know or have communicated with in other places online. Accepting random requests from strangers may result in your account being hacked or your pictures and information being used by scammers to set up false profiles all over the world in questionable groups and sites you would never ever choose to be a part of. No “stranger” friends.
- Know your purpose. Get in, do your thing, get out. I know myself all too well how easy it is to keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling and reading, reading, reading, trying to make sure I see every single share by people I love. Countless hours can slip by and an entire evening or whatever time you wanted to be doing something else is gone. Gone. You can never get those minutes or hours back. I now check in, fulfill my purpose and check out as fast as I can. Purpose fulfilled.
- Unnecessary Posting. Right up there with political and religious rants are the myriad postings of bleeding, hurt animals, deformed children and other things we already see more than enough of from reputable news and public relations sources which many of these posts online are not (read the fine print or the poster, it’s usually not a reputable news source but someone hyping the drama to collect clicks). Causes are good, I totally get that and am all for kindness to every person and every creature. And I support many causes online because I have seen them achieve great things for their efforts. But constantly ramming your causes at people online is the same as ranting, political and religious over sharing. Same with asking for money for any reason. Once is enough. Overdo it and you will soon be unfollowed. Once is enough.
- Manic posting. Don’t do it! You may think you should share every single picture of a cute animal, every beautiful nature shot or every single prayer ever known to man. I love animals, nature and enjoy reading prayers and other inspirational posts but after hundreds sail by from the same poster, my eyes glaze over. Hundreds of posts by those who obsessively fill our feed are just not fun. Eventually people grow post weary, I have discovered, and just scroll past without stopping to look at a single thing the “overposters” post. No “overposting!”
- Be nice. If you can’t be nice you probably shouldn’t be on social media anyway. Nobody likes a curmudgeon and nothing makes a place feel toxic faster than people who are not nice. Also, don’t expect apologies for anything online. People are so stuck on their notions online, I find, it never even occurs to them they had no business tearing you apart with a lecture or any other sort of criticism they attack you with. For one thing, these self appointed “judgers” have all of that “false pride” sitting glaring at them on the internet in the form of what they said and they can’t very well back down now and do humble… or can they? They likely can but don’t want to. The further they dig their heels in, the further they dig their heels in and trying to reason with a brick pretty much sums it up. Ignore them and move on. And be nice in spite of these online curmudgeons, critics and self appointed judges. Be nice or be quiet.
Finally (and I bet you are very glad to read that word by now), think about what you are burning and itching to say on social media before you say it. Ask yourself, 1. Is it kind? And 2. Is it necessary? If you answer NO to either question, best to move on in my opinion. Quietly. No more self appointed judges. More “askers” and less “assumers,” please.
We may not be able to fix everything that has gone awry with social media but we can improve our own “zones” in an effort to make the experience what it was meant to be: fun and social. Hopefully, over time, that will create a big enough “ripple” to offset some of the other elements that make it no longer fun or social for so many.
If I never see another angry post or angry face (when did posting “angry face” become so fashionable, ugh) or somebody selling something or other or another set of ugly duck lips on manically posted selfies so long as I shall live, that will be just fine by me.
What was once considered fun and social is now a chore for many of us, often hostile and, in my opinion, becoming more and more “anti-social.” Who needs a big chore that many of us have grown to dread so much we just opt out? I haven’t yet opted out myself but I am going on these sites less and less every single day. It’s just not time well spent in my opinion, if it’s not happy making or helpful in some way, why bother… well, that’s it for me.
Peace be yours.