Social Media Brings Out the Worst in All of Us
What is it about social media that turns all of us (yes, myself included) into utter raging assholes? Don’t believe me or think that you’re the exception to this rule? Let me tell you about the two posts I put up on Facebook last week. The first was my usual teaser and link for TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less, the topic of which was, in case you missed it, transgender swimmer, Lia Thomas. Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a vocal advocate and supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I expressed as much in the piece, saying that I embrace every single human being for exactly who they are and how they want to define themselves. All I suggested was that allowing transgender women to compete against biological women was unfair and damaging to the women they compete against (not that transgender women should be excluded from competing period or that they should not be fully respected and embraced for their courageous decision to be exactly who they are). But that didn’t stop folks, many of whom had clearly not even bothered to read the column in its entirety before feeling the need to have their own voices heard, from spewing epithets and false accusations of transgender discrimination and hatred. The vitriolic comments became so untethered that many of my LGBTQ friends and former students felt the need to intervene and correct these aspersions from folks who clearly didn’t know anything about me or what I stand for. Standing behind a wall of anonymity, they flung their insults and negativity in droves with the column wracking up more pub than a Will Smith slap to the face (ok, not really that much…). But then, a day or so later, I posted the GoFundMe link (https://gofund.me/14683142) for a Ukrainian student who goes to school here in Colorado, but whose family has lost their business in the War. This poor young soul is set to be sent back to the war-torn remains of her country if we cannot find the means to help her and her family keep her in school here. But what kind of response did that post garner? That’s right- crickets. And that’s all you need to know about social media.
We already know from aired Congressional testimony that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram continuously spoon-feed us the drama of negativity, filling our news feeds with posts they know will rile us and further division amongst us. But so too do we allow the relative feeling of namelessness, the false sense of depersonalization on the other side of the computer screen to embolden our anger and unfetter the restrain of our invective towards our fellow human beings. We type horrible things and mindlessly hit send, feeling that there are no repercussions because our targets are no more than thin strands of consciousness in the intangible ether of the internet. Yes, social media moguls like Mark “Why Can’t Someone Walk Up and Punch Him in the Face?” Zuckerberg are culpable for manipulating algorithms that prey upon the worst in human nature, but so too are we complicit in our own moral demise by focusing our energies on negativity and conflict.
Oh, we like to think that we are making the world a slightly better place with each and every comment we write, shedding enlightenment on ignorance and injustice. But who the fuck has ever had some vibrant moral or social epiphany from reading a post on Facebook? Yeah, nobody. But there we sit on our moral high horse, acting more like a giant ass, typing away comments that won’t change a god damn thing other than to piss off people on the other side of the debate. Worse yet, when an opportunity to actually do something for our community arises, when asked upon to contribute something real to the world we live in, we sit there doing nothing, hushed with our hands by our sides, letting the world go idly by.
That’s right- I am accusing all you (and me too) of claiming that we don’t have the time to actually investigate the countless ways we can help alleviate real human suffering, like the kind Iryna and her family are enduring, or even so much as reading her story on a GoFundMe page, but we have all the time in the world to write inane gibberish about articles we didn’t even read or feeling the need to share our own “unique” perspective on one overly-entitled Hollywood actor bitch-slapping another, like somehow, in the grand scheme of things, that actually amounts to anything more than water-cooler drivel. It is pure, unadulterated narcissism. Because in the end, it is always about us. We want everyone to hear US, to listen to what we have to say, as we embark on our Quixotic quest to save the world, fighting windmills largely of our own invention. But when the opportunity arises to make a real difference in the world, to actually put all those meaningless words into action, well, that’s too much work, it costs too much money, it doesn’t speak to our souls.
Do I recognize the irony of subsequently posting this column on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? Of course I do. I am an English teacher for crying out loud. But that’s how we have come to live with the devil amongst us. We all know that social media has become a necessary evil for staying in touch with many of our former friends or promoting our work. We have come to tacitly accept the growing cancer inside of us, allowing the rancor and division to overwhelm us. But what if all of us made a commitment to write one less negative comment each and every week and focus instead on just one way we can make the world a better place?
You can start by donating to Iryna…. https://gofund.me/14683142
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com