Is the Spirit of Social Broken?
This is not what I had planned on writing about today. I had a whole different topic related to social media to post. It was written a couple of weeks ago in my trusty green spiral-bound notebook, old school. Most of the time, I prefer to write, edit, write, and scratch all around while writing with a pen on paper. Right now though, I'm typing this up fresh.
The apple cart has been upended on social media as far as I'm concerned. The recent election brought out the worst in people online during the debates and prior to election day.
I made radio and television appearances discussing social media and the election. What to do if it was causing you stress, how to best respond to others' posts, to exercise your freedom of speech but also your freedom to ignore, to remember others were watching and forming opinions were all topics of discussion. Something I repeated a few times was, "Be kind or be quiet."
My naivete got the best of me. While I wouldn't change anything I said, I was certainly unprepared for the amount of ugly and how bad it was going to get. I thought people would ease up after the election, no matter what happened. If there was anything we could all agree on, it was over. No more debates. No more name calling. No more negative campaign ads. We were done. It used to be fun. It would be fun again. So I thought. I was not prepared for it to get worse. It's gotten worse.
Not only has it gotten worse on social media but also in real life. Yes, IRL is really reflecting the personas some people have been anonymously portraying online.
While I believe these people (the ones yelling and confronting absolute strangers) are in the minority, they are ruining the social part of social media. Those of us who work in social media often ask, "Would you say what you type to that person's face?" Apparently, there are some who will, and they are. It's not good. I've never known someone to change his mind after having an opposing opinion yelled at him or after someone has called him an idiot (or worse).
It's as if socially, many have forgotten there's a time and a place for everything. A lot of what's happening on social sites just is flat out not the place for it.
On top of what seems to be our human-to-human behavior problems, Facebook is dealing with a fake news issue. In my opinion, social media channels need to stop playing with algorithms, too. How many of you swore off Facebook before the election, because you just didn't want to see the arguing anymore? How many jump on to see if it's any better these days only to be bombarded with primarily negative messages?
If people get worn out or stressed out by visiting a social site, eventually they're going to stop coming back. That is not good for the social sites themselves, it's not good for friendships, for the the majority of users, and it's not good for me either.
Newsfeeds used to be more balanced. They flowed naturally and chronologically without so much interference or control from Facebook. They were just more social. We were a happier bunch who socialized online with each other.
All the good is not gone. I know this. There are still plenty of funny memes, cute cats, bleating goats, fantastic food pics, talented dogs, laughing babies, and random conversations. Thank goodness! Social media sites are still a place I want to go to catch up with people and see what's going on around the world. However, I don't want to walk into an argument. I don't want to be attacked for sharing my opinion. What I've seen lately feels like going to a party only to wander room to room finding groups of people in heated arguments and debates. Nobody is enjoying themselves. Most people who show up to socialize at that party aren't going to stick around!
Social media sites must decide, once again, what they want to be. Is Facebook for social or for news? Maybe, MZ should start Debatebook (if someone does this, I claim trademark and want in) so FB can get back to letting us see the happy faces of our friends. By no means am I trying to stifle freedom of speech, but social sites need to consider what happens if the foundation of people whom they've built the businesses on decide enough is enough and abandon ship. What kind of party are they hosting?
So, here are seven suggestions to keep social media fun, civil, and well social.
1. Be kind or be quiet. Don't attack someone else on her own post. If you disagree, and the person didn't ask for others' opinions, then ignore and move on.
2. For social channels to let the information flow freely chronologically and abandon algorithm control of feeds.
3. Post positive messages. Be entertaining or educational or better yet, both.
4. Don't argue with strangers; there are better ways to spend your time.
5. If critiquing, remember there is a real human person on the other side.
6. If debating, then debate with facts. Debate with respect. Debate without name calling. Others are just as passionate about their points of view as you are about yours.
7. Have fun! Be social, smile, and spread good cheer.
Now, go forth and be social!