Social media - love or loathing?

By: Lorraine Iverson

I like Facebook. I’m on it a couple times a day. I keep track of old friends, find out what’s happening and to look at baby/puppy/kitten photos ad nauseum. It’s about all the social media I can cope with. I tried Twitter for a short time but I’m much too verbose to make an impact there. Instagram seems complicated at this point in my life. So I’m good with Facebook and some old fashioned email from time to time. But lately it seems that posts are getting even more vitriolic than usual on FB. I know there’s an election right around the corner (16 months!) but does it have to sneak into every post. I’m chuckling about a cute puppy/kitten romp and some heavy hitter has to go off about how much Democrats hate dogs or Republicans are anti spaying. Really?! I’m over it. 

And now that we’ve had the long-awaited Republican debate - yikes! The nasties are really posting. Old friends are choosing sides and going to cyber war.

The recent postings about the killing of Cecil the lion had many upset.  He was a majestic, endangered animal, illegally lured from his protected environment, killed and skinned so some egomaniacal dentist could make a rug out of him. Who wouldn’t be outraged? But it’s an issue that needs to be addressed in the African countries where it is taking place. Facebook can’t solve this issue. Sure, it sheds light on injustices but 300 bizillion Facebookers aren’t going to stop it. Knowing better, I jumped on the band wagon and put my two cents of outrage on Facebook. I expected the gun nuts to say somethingsnarky. They jump on any post about any weapon. But no, an anti-choice advocate decided to make it about killing lions vs. killing fetuses. Come on. Get your own soapbox.

I think we need to reevaluate our social media content. I know that I do because I’m over everyone digitally marching around with their protest signs. Everyone has a social issue or political stance that they feel is critical to share with the masses. And if everyone could just post it once and the people whom agree with them could all respond with a collective “right on!” that would be lovely. But no, we’re off and running again. I have discovered on FB that people I’ve liked my whole life are really huge bigots or, at best, morons. I probably didn’t need to know that. In many cases, I’ve disconnected with them forever because of their political posts. I was happier being casual friends and not getting so close to their opinions.

There is also this herd mentality or maybe it’s more of a pack mentality of piling-on. I mean go-for-the- throat attacks on anyone that disagrees with you. In person, this would not happen except maybe at some kind of protest rally. But standing around at a cocktail party are you going to go into a rage and tell a total stranger, or worse, a dear friend that they are a  -———ing idiot because they don’t care about GMO labeling. I think not. There’s this imaginary safety screen, sometimes labeled “email courage” that we feel protected behind to spew rage all over our “friends” online.

And how about being original - there’s a concept! Don’t just repost someone else’s rant. At least write your own. If you feel that strongly about an issue take the time to do research and craft a statement that reflects your personal opinion. (Perhaps in a civilized tone.) Just repackaging something and throwing it out there seems lazy but inflammatory to me. Recently, I’ve noticed people that do write their own opinions and then they request no responses. Surprisingly, it often works.  “This is my opinion, I feel a need to say it publicly and I’m requesting no feedback” Most of us would respect that request. If not, there’s always that unfriending choice. A choice I’m making more and more. If I don’t have the nerve to unfriend, I block.  Oh, the problems we have created for ourselves……

So I’m going to take a stand here and now and do my part to make Facebook a nicer place to play. I’m going to bite my keyboard when I’m feeling outraged and want to lash out at my misguided friends. I’m going to post things I care about in an original and positive fashion. I’m going to work at defusing potential rage fests and I’m probably going to eliminate a lot of FB friends. But in the process I’ll lower my blood pressure and potentially like some people a lot more offline.

It feels like I’m always trying to get people to chill out. A couple months ago I wrote about how everyone is a critic and so quick to judge. Now I’m asking folks for kinder, gentler Facebook. They say we teach what we need to learn. I’m sure these are my lessons. Thanks for letting me share and heal myself. 

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Rain Iverson has traveled many paths and is always recreating herself. As a business woman, she co-founded and managed a technology public relations firm and one of the first computer conferencing software companies. She has served on non-profit boards, retired at 50 to become an artist and then 10 years later came out of retirement to become CFO of her son's company. Rain is the matriarch of a large, blended family with a great husband, children, grandchildren and lots of extended/blended family members.