Thursday, August 18, 2016

About Social Media Unpleasantness

I should warn that this post may be somewhat stream-of-conscience.  Yes, I’ve completed my course so I have time for such things for now.

Ace published a thoughtful post [LANGUAGE WARNING, including the comments.  I’ve included those because they reveal a lot of different social media experiences and responses.] the other day about the mass unfriending and unfollowing happening on social media sites during this political season.  I found this especially perceptive:

I've mentioned Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neal Postman a lot. It's very relevant to our age. He notes Marshall MacLuhan's aphorism about TV -- "The medium is the message" -- and explores it.

Every medium has a certain type of message it's good at delivering, and other types of messages it's not good at delivering. Thus, every medium has an implicit bias towards certain styles of messaging -- the medium itself has embedded within it a "message" about what types of messages are important.

Thus we should take the medium into account when posting.  For one thing, don’t post everything that comes into your head on Facebook or even on Twitter!  You’re not having coffee with a friend on Facebook as much as you may want to, and trying to have coffee with all your FB friends by continually posting every little thing that comes to mind will likely annoy them.

But I don’t want to so much give advice as to tell some of what I do about social media unpleasantness.

First my Twitter and Facebook policies are quite different.  On Facebook, I want to keep up with friends, and have some fun, too; on Twitter I want to keep up with the world . . . and have some fun, too.

So on Twitter, I can be very unsentimental about unfollowing.  If your feed is annoying me more than it’s informing me, I will probably unfollow you.  I am very ecumenical about that by the way.  I’ve unfollowed #NeverTrump people and Trumpistas (especially those who smear Ted Cruz – I went on an unfollowing spree about that!).

On Facebook, if we are, or have been, good real life friends, you could support Satan for President, and I will not unfriend you.  And I will not unfriend anyone for mere disagreement.  But I have occasionally unfriended or even blocked for the following reasons:

1.  Refusal to accept my input.  One time a real life friend deleted a polite comment that added information to a political issue he brought up.  I confronted him on that privately, but his explanation didn’t hold water.  Is someone who literally deletes your thoughtful input much of a friend? Some of his other FB activity showed me I did not know him as well as I thought and really did not want much contact with him anymore.  Which brings up…

2. Protecting myself.  Both from personal experience and that of others, it is clear that there are people out there who will harmfully attack friends and even family for holding “wrong” views. So if someone acts too much like that kind of person . . . .  I don’t need more of that in my life.  Related…

3. Attacking me.  I can think of two millennial friends (They once were friends in real life even.) who attacked me personally as a bigot and got even nastier than that.  With a heavy heart, I unfriended and blocked both of them.  Maybe I should leave the door more open.  But they willfully crossed some serious lines, and I felt it was necessary to protect myself.

4. Intellectual dishonesty.  This is more a Twitter issue than a Facebook issue.  But I really hate willful intellectual dishonesty, including willful ignorance (Reasons I unfollowed so many Trumpistas). If someone is a serial offender and not a real life good friend, they’re gone.  By the way, it is remarkable how abortion issues reveal the intellectual dishonesty of many.

But what if a good friend is a serial offender who sorely annoys but who has not attacked you personally in a significant manner?

I’ve used and recommend the “unfollow” function on Facebook.  That way you and the unfollowed remain friends, but you don’t see their posts.  And you can refollow them again anytime, perhaps a week after Election Day.  Twitter has a similar “mute” function, but I think it is more important on Facebook.

One example of my using that.  There is a gentleman who was a good friend of mine in high school.  I’ve always thought highly of him.  But in the past month, he posted two items which smeared people and a group I value (and I’m a member of said group).  It didn’t seem like him, an intelligent man, (And he’s since deleted one of the posts I think.), but the posts genuinely angered me, and I have enough bile in my life already.

But I value our friendship.  I don’t want to burn bridges at all and, at the same time, do want to give both of us space for this season at least.  So I quietly unfollowed him with the intention of refollowing him after the Election.

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Now, believe it or not, I try to avoid being needlessly annoying myself.  I do know the truth can be annoying.  And part of who I am is I want to inform people and give them food for thought. 

But I also recognize that the medium of Facebook may not be the best venue for that at times.  Twitter is much better for throwing observations out there.  But Facebook is more like, say, a continuous family reunion than Twitter.  And if you are the uncle at the family reunion who is constantly ranting about politics, others may avoid you . . . unless you are very amusing (even when you do not intend so to be).

So I am selective about posting less than pleasant matters on Facebook lest I needlessly annoy and find myself the one unfriended and unfollowed.  In fact, a real life friend told me she unfollowed me on FB (while remaining friends) because of my political posts.  But because of my usual restraint, I consider that both her free choice and not my fault.

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Anyway, although you may think me a *bad man* for one or more of the episodes above, I do try to use some grace and restraint on social media, both in posting and reacting, particularly on Facebook.  Perhaps that is the way to get through this political season together . . . and stay somewhat together.

Feel free to comment.  I’m sure my good readers have stories to tell.

1 comment:

Maxine Schell said...

I unfriended my sister-in-law during 2008 and 2012 campaign cycles, then friended her after the election. I love her, but her posts made me think of her as stupid…so it eliminated my impulse to call her that. I just didn't need the temptation.