“I don’t get all that social media stuff. I’ve always got other things I want to to like odd jobs around the house. No one wants to hear about that.” ~ Karl Pilkington
“…if your real friends online say or do something, it affects you. But if your online acquaintances online say or do something, it does not. People, on average, have about 106 Facebook friends, but only five or six real friends.” – Nicholas A. Christakis
Ah, social media. Many of us have one or more accounts on one or more of our devices. Yet there are some who still don’t even have an account no matter what their age is. Why is this? Their reply to me is because of all the negativity that’s on there. While I agree with this, I also disagree. Before I go into that let’s briefly look at the history of social media and human behavior for a better understanding
Throughout the ages mankind has had problems communicating with each other. It probably started the first time JQ Caveman didn’t understand what John Doe Caveman said. It continued when someone, perhaps a king, sent a messenger to deliver a message to someone else, and again when man or woman first started writing letters. Fast forward to present day. In about the last 200 years, we’ve had the invention of the telegraph, the telephone, the computer, the satellite phone and the cell phone. With these inventions, new ways of communicating has evolved. Text or instant messaging and social media. The problem? The lack of face to face, human to human contact.
Social media was created as a way for humans to connect to each other wherever they were in the world. You may be surprised to know that social media actually had its earliest beginnings in the 1970’s, believe it or not. Chat rooms and instant messenger programs were the first to be created but due to the lack of people connected to the Internet, networks were limited. It would be a few years before the Internet’s infrastructure and popularity could catch up with the concept of social networks.
In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, development of these platforms along with other newer versions continued to be developed. Internet infrastructure continued improving and the very first site we currently know as social media launched in 1997. Shortly after that the giants we know today we’re launched and the age of social media messaging and posting began. Soon, nearly every person, young and old, started posting, sharing or “liking” everything from shared pictures of family and friends, news articles, words of wisdom and even words of hate.
Enter the human factor that was probably not included into all of the first algorithms of social media. Humans, for the most part, are impulsive creatures. See a nice thing in the store? We buy it. Doesn’t matter if we need it. We buy it anyway. This is a form of instant gratification. This doesn’t only apply to getting what we want, when we want it. It’s also saying what we want, when we want to. We do not take care with our words. When a thought enters our mind, it goes out of our mouth, or fingers when it comes to any form of electronic communication.
I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to being impulsive with my words and actions. I seek instant gratification as much as anyone. However because I am aware of this, I work daily to change it.
When it comes to social media, we experience a whole new level of impulsivity and instant gratification. Thanks to the Internet and social media, we can instinctively say anything that comes to mind at any time. We see something that puts a smile on our face, we click the like button, maybe comment on and share it. We see something that angers us, we do the same thing. We probably leave some sort of word vomit for a comment or an ugly emoticon, maybe even share it. But we have a choice today. Do we want to spread happiness or do we want spread anger?
Perhaps the worst part of this is that if we don’t like what we see, even another comment from another user, some of us who don’t normally say nasty things seem to grow a set of stones and leave nasty, derogatory remarks to people they don’t even know. Some people even resort to cyber bullying. Tragically, children and young adults have been known to commit suicide because someone bullied them thru social media. Don’t believe me? Ask the family and friends of a sweet young soul who recently did just that in my community. She killed herself because she was bullied on social media. I saw the social media posts in response to her death. I didn’t even know the young lady and my heart breaks for her and all who are affected by it.
Haven’t we had enough ugliness spread around the world these days? Do we really need more of it?
I wrote the following one day a couple years ago in a social media post, “What happened to talking either face to face or on the phone with someone? SO MANY words, thoughts, and feelings can be misunderstood and misconstrued by all this electronic communication crap.” This was in response to a fight I was in with someone via,…wait for it…, text messaging. Because I was in a hurry and was busy, I responded to a text message with a short reply. My response was taken the wrong way and, well I’m sure you know the rest. This wasn’t the first time nor will it even the last time I’ll do that. I’m quite certain of 2 things, 1) I’ll do it again and 2) I’m not the only one that this has happened to.
Over the last couple of years I’ve attempted to engage in debates with others over their beliefs or comments that they’ve posted on social media. Particularly during the last presidential election. I found myself getting mad and frustrated because I either couldn’t get the other person to see things in a different light or I was called names by someone I’ve never met in life. I found that all that negativity, drama and chaos was hurting me and my relationships with others so I walked away from it.
It’s just like Nicholas A. Christakis said, “People, on average, have about 106 Facebook friends, but only five or six real friends”. And probably half of those “friends” are high school kids they’ve rarely, if ever, spoken to. The other half are “friends” in some game like Candy Crush or some hate group that one may be a member of. The problem is none of us truly knows how another person really is on the other side of the electronic device we are using. We have no clue how those “friends” truly are in real life. Which brings me to why I left those groups.
In the real world, I do have more friends than a small handful. I also have friends thru social media in every corner of the world. Including places I wouldn’t have expected. We have chatted thru our messenger apps. Although it’s not the same as face to face, I’ve gotten to know some beautiful people in this country and around the world. I’ve even been in friendly debates over issues other than politics – and we remain friends. And while I do post a few things in a number of groups, I have time set aside in the morning to do this. If for some strange reason I can’t get back to my social media for much of the day, that’s ok. It’s not the end of my world. It will still be there whenever I get to it.
So I sold my farm in Farmville, rehomed my pets in Happy Pets and Happy Aquarium, had a cavity fixed from eating sweets treats on Candy Crush and escaped from Mafia Wars. My primary groups and pages are ones that have positive messages to share. Matter of fact I started 2 pages and 1 group that pass messages of hope and inspiration. The page only have almost 1,650 likes and the group only has a couple hundred members but that’s ok. I know that today I try to be the change in want to see in the world. I try to be part of the solution(sharing positively) and not the problem(spreading negativity).
Thought for the day: Today, and everyday going forward, let’s try to either share positive things on social media or just walk away from the negative ones. Let’s spread more love than hate. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. If we do this, maybe, just maybe, we can turn the tides of hate into brotherly love.
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