Is Social Media making us “meaner”?

Before Social Media it seems to me that people were far more polite. There was no such thing as dropping an acerbic comment and fleeing into the night as though you never did it. Being accountable was far more prevalent before the internet. In many exchanges I see things happening that normally would not even hit the real world radar because, if speaking in person to another person, much of what goes out online would simply just stay in.

This happened to me last year when a relative lectured me on how to use Facebook after I posted a “funny” about how we would never walk up to strangers with pictures of our dinner, etc, yet we do it on the internet. My relative talked all about herself and why she is on Facebook and how she uses it while telling me “the internet is not about us” even though her pages were all about her, her family, her…you get the picture. I replied and she blocked me. Go figure. Why she even took such an arrogant stance over a “funny” to lecture one who has been years on Social Media is beyond me. Yet, she did. And apparently did not appreciate my answer. To this day I would guess she is still blaming others for her own arrogant digital deliverances.

The problem is when people online develop this sense of superiority, they throne themselves to become queen or king of the land in ways that they would never do in the real world. In the real world my relative likely would never have said a thing to me. Or if she had, she might apologize for lecturing me and just respect me as I am but, from what I have witnessed, that would never happen on the internet. Rarely do I see anyone apologizing for anything on the internet. I don’t think I have ever seen it. Yet. 

The American political state is constantly showing up in my feed, manic posters of all things one party or the other. Would those manic posters run up to me on the street and bombard me like that with all manner of biased media that may or may not even be true? No. So don’t do it online.

It actually looks quite silly if you ask me. Remember the conversational rule of no politics and no religion? Well, I do and do my best to avoid both online. Your religious and political business is just that, yours. Nobody else needs to know and sometimes when posters over post, I wonder, who are you trying to convince anyway, me or yourself? Silence is truly golden on the internet.

Now, that said, don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the benefits of social media from staying connected to long distance loved ones to being able to connect with people from all corners of the world. And I do care what happens in the U.S. election because it will affect all of us in some way or other. But I don’t need to see regurgitated newscasts or manic posts favoring one side. Just this morning my Facebook feed was so leaden with all of that, I thought, I am getting really sick and tired of Facebook.  Posed, air brushed or filtered images, posts competing for attention in such a false environment surely cannot be as healthy as life in the “real world.” Not much point doing a daily check in online any more, one day just blends into another in the land of doctored images and bogus articles shared by those who don’t even check into whether what they post or share is true or not. Freeing in some way to not do a daily check in, really, one less thing to do every day. You can leave social media for days and still miss nothing.

From the confines of my bed where I have the least physical pain, I write this to say that I have found people growing more and more short with one another since the internet became so user friendly and, to some, so addictive. No manners. No patience. No time. No consideration. The land of Meme’s has created many a monster in my observation over this past decade alone. Time for a change for the better.

What is especially frightening is how this “impatience” dynamic transfers to the “real world.” Yes, there was road rage before the internet but now it seems to multiply daily as though there is a back street factory breeding angry people. People seem all too willing to be nasty online, posting nasty videos, nasty comments and nasty assumptions. I recently posted a challenge to my hundreds of followers on one social site. It was very simple: share one thing for someone or do or say something kind online and come back here to tell us what you did. Only one person, yes, only one out of hundreds of people even responded. Yet, had I posted something political or otherwise contentious, the reactions would be multiplying by the minute just as they did when I recently shared something for one political party just to see what the outcome would be. Well, I was jumped on like nobody’s business with all sorts of negative (of course they were against not for the side I chose to post about), some even stooping to hateful comments and name calling. Imagine. Adults. I cannot but it happened. Acting out online in ways you never normally would in the real world is most distasteful. 

When we were growing up, if we said or did such rude or unkind things we might find ourselves getting clipped about the ears or scolded at the very least. Behaving meanly or cruelly was never in fashion when I was growing up. But then, we didn’t have all this “trending” business going on to keep up with either. I recently commented that people who watch bloody, gory violence for entertainment and then cry out against it when onscreen press or media outlets report about same bloody violence in their town or about people they know onscreen, are upholding a double standard. Why “selectively” balk at it if you watch those bloody, gory zombie shows for entertainment? Isn’t that a double standard? Or are we so desensitized that the gore does not move us unless it hits close to home? Still, I find that to be a double standard, too. Bloody, gory zombie shows have no place in my world, no double standard here.  Yet, no matter the double standard, it appears all too many just jump on the “anger”  band wagon online. What is confounding to me is always this: why do they think they are so important that anyone cares what they have to say anyway? Humility, this is what I wish for those self aggrandizing, angry and inconsiderate people. Humility.

Reducing our language down to symbols, emojis and consonants has not helped at all. Everything is so sped up there is so much online to amuse and titillate (what a word, reminds me of my older brother who once called television the “glass teat” and he was right about that, too), humans are walking and driving into one another daily because they cannot, rather, will not look up from their gadgets whether distracted walking, driving or even biking as I recently saw a man doing. Distracted driving is now said to be causing as many deaths as speeding does.

As with all things in life, moderation is the key. But how can you reach those humans who insist on being “plugged in” 24/7? I do not know the answer to that. I only know I do not like this new culture of ours where being online is mostly where it’s at and truly being with one another, sincerely valuing one another is reduced to almost nothing. In my world, valuing one another is the purpose of life.

Impatience and intolerance appear to be on the rise everywhere with strangers in line ups cursing about the time even if the line up is moving quite well and would be considered a good thing pre-internet. It seems any amount of time longer than a “click” that gouges into the “me me me” gadget time is cause for haughty reactions or verbal grouching aloud to people you don’t even know or loved ones who don’t deserve that abuse. All this I have seen repeatedly from supposed adults who should know better. Far better.

Maybe it’s time for a new trend. A giant internet takeover that demands you get your “human” on again and shut all else off. I always think to myself, what if the power went out? What would you do? Those of you addicted to your clicky clacky internet fixes, what would you do? Would you grow angry as most addicts do when their addiction of choice is suddenly removed? Would you even care that getting angry over no internet just proves you should not be on it, you are not living your life in balance and need to get all that out of whack stuff in line again? Probably not is my guess. Everything in the online world is me me me and now now now. No, make that me first, me first, me first and right now, right now, right now.

And before you say it, yes this is being posted on the internet. But I don’t get on all three of my mainly used sites every day, I just don’t have that kind of energy. Mostly I try to check in for friends, family and loved ones. I don’t really care what else is going on in the world, I just want to know they are okay or see their latest photos of the long distance family members spending time together. Those joyful things are why I don’t completely disconnect from it all.

As a writer I have other online connections, too, from health groups to writing groups to writer friends. Still, I can go many weeks without checking in on those groups or connections and miss absolutely nothing. Given the choice, I might be one of those who says let’s go back before the internet when hand written letters were treasured and real time in the real world with your real people was not just valued but joyfully anticipated. No gatherings of people all looking down at their gadgets would you see in my world as I do even in restaurants where parents and children don’t talk, they just “gadget,” only looking up to grunt as the wait staff serve them. Not a pretty sight. Well, that’s me. Old fashioned to the core and loving all things nostalgic, anything that does not include the “snob boxes” of what I see as our current impatient and hot headed culture who expect everything in life to take just “one click” or the huffing and puffing begins.

What are your thoughts, do you think we have become more angry and intolerant as a society on the whole since the advent of the internet, specifically social media? Do you think manners are on the decline?

Time to celebrate and value others in the “real world” if you ask me. Talk softly and carry a big Q-Tip is all I know to do. Who knows, someone might need it after all those years of not listening, hearing or understanding properly.

(c) Janni Styles

Please note the use of “you” in this piece is only in reference to those living angrily out of balance on the internet, internet, internet. Of course, they likely won’t read this anyway… they will be too busy lashing out at someone somewhere over nothing at all, making no good difference in the world whatsoever. 


Why are so many leaving Social Media?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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!”
  12. 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.