Before I get started I have to include a brief disclosure. This is not a blog about “Saved by the Bell.” I know I just disappointed a few of my friends, but sorry Hertzogs, not today.
Social Media, bringer of delicious meal ideas and supreme waster of worker productivity, has found itself under an intense spotlight lately. It is blamed for the dissemination of the ever dreaded ‘Fake News.’ It is chastised for limiting user’s exposure to diversity of ideas and creating the harrowing ‘social bubble.’ The platform has even led to intense, verbal sparring composed of vitriolic ridicule spewed while hiding behind the invincible shield of online anonymity.
And that doesn’t even count those arguments that have pissed off friends and family members.
Can I pause and say that I have been trying to work the phrase ‘vitriolic ridicule’ into a blog for a long time. Please join me in celebrating my long-awaited linguistic success!
So I say let’s ban this bastion of hatred and stupidity! Who is with me? I have started a Facebook page and will be tweeting updates to all those in our movement. Please follow and like so that together we can eliminate this modern day scourge!
Wait, hold on! Don’t rush off. Do you see the fantastic paradox I created? Using social media to eliminate social media. Crazy right?
Ok, so what are we to do? This is the question that strikes at the crux of the matter. How do we, as a society, deal with a part of our lives that causes so much grief and yet has so many redeeming qualities? To eliminate it entirely would be to ignore the incredible way social media brings us together and helps us share with those near and far. However, letting social media run unchecked, a virtual anarchy, is no solution either.
At this point, the phrase that comes to mind is personal accountability. Actually pausing a moment from the crazy bustle called your daily life, and making a judgement call. Over the past year, I have seen some frustrating video clips shared on social media. Someone will find a liquored up, gun totting, rebel flag waving, truck driving, good ol’ boy and get him to say some insanely ignorant or racist comment. Video in hand, this person rushes to Facebook and posts the video with the caption ‘The Truth about the Average Republican Voter.’ Instantly the video is viral and every left-leaning person on social media thinks, ‘Holy crap, the Republican Party is a bastion of racism and stupidity. I don’t want to associate with anything Republican.’ They then proceed to throw out every item they own with an elephant on it.
But wait conservative friends, you are not without culpability. I have seen videos where someone seeks out a naive college student, probably after a few social drinks, and gets them to say something idiotic and out-of-touch. Video in hand, this person rushes to Facebook and posts the video with the caption, ‘Idiot liberal doesn’t understand how real life works.’ Instantly the video is viral and every right-leaning person on social media thinks, ‘Holy crap, the Democrat Party is a filled with intellectually lazy knuckleheads. I don’t want to associate with anything Democrat.’ They then proceed to find a talk radio channel that reaffirms their intelligence.
The clearly over-exaggerated good ol’ boy and college liberal fall into a category best described as outliers. Thinking back to the bell curve at the top of the blog post, where do you think these two extreme stereotypes live? I am with you if you concluded that they live at the very narrow ends of the bell curve. Are there people out in our society who think and act like this? Yes, Virginia, they do exist. But, where do you think we all live on that bell curve?
An overwhelming majority of Americans, whether to the right or left of the mid-line, spend their lives living in the area shaded ‘Most People.’ You and I do not live on the far ends of the bell curve. Yet, all too often, we get enraged or flabbergasted watching a video of one of those outliers. Before the rational side of the brain pumps the brakes, we have shared it on our feed and propagated a skewed, dishonest view of our society. This behavior must stop.
I am reaching out to all of you living in the middle of the bell curve. Please, social media responsibly. Think before you click. Do not let incendiary headlines drive your mental narrative. Be aware of the sources of articles you share, take ownership of your social media feed and eliminate the mainstreaming of outliers. Make certain your feed reflects where you live on the bell curve. Now, go forward and be better virtual citizens!
Oh, but please don’t stop sharing those amazing recipes and hilarious memes.
Image Credit: The Huffington Post