I am new to Facebook and Twitter. I started them out of curiosity. For me, they are an experiment.
Criticizing social media is now a national pastime. But this post isn’t a criticism of Facebook or Twitter, or about the Russian or Cambridge Analytics misuse of Facebook. It’s about us and our own responsibility.
The single thing I walk away with from my experience is that social media is a pacifier for our anger.
We live in a time of identity politics. Which “side” you belong to matters more than the “issue.” Your position on issues is determined ahead of time by your group or tribe, and what that tribe’s leaders tell you to think.
The identity trigger is now amplified by fear mongering and outright lies. Fear is a great attention grabber. Our economy is now “attention-based.” We count clicks and try to turn them into money or influence, whether through advertising or demographic tender. The problem with a fear-based attention driven economy is that it really doesn’t produce any long lasting value. It produces anger, but nothing changes except perhaps our anger increases. Our attention spans also keep getting shorter. Therefore we need more stimulation which leads to more fear and anger. Witness the president’s use of Twitter, a perfect mix of rage and fear.
Social media is now an addiction requiring a fix, and our phones provide that fix on a regular basis. We get the fix reading the post or tweet, or “liking and sharing,” or simply using the medium to spew out our own anger. It causes a chemical reaction in the brain. Excuse me while I check that… oh it was nothing. Take that, you bastards!
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done my share of railing. It feels great, like a high. Pushing that “Like” button or commenting feels like breaking your pencil lead at the end of a great sentence. Yet when we post or “Like,” we are just talking to people that belong to our identity group in the first place and agree with us anyway. Nobody else cares. Yet it leaves us with some sense of accomplishment? We re-enforce our group. We stand in solidarity. Our identity needs are confirmed and our high is rationalized by our false belief that we have convinced the “other side,” or informed people about some injustice that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
This is a particular problem of the progressives and liberals. Admit it, progressives have a tendency to think that reason is a great way to convince people in an argument. When it’s not, people get snarky.
There are a great many reasons to be angry and pissed at the current administration. I do not believe there is any equivalency between sides. I believe the president is destroying our institutions and doing great damage to our environment, our culture, and our security. He is supported by the GOP in his psychosis. But our anger is not the problem.
Using social media alone to combat the assault on the country is like pissing in the wind. Raging on Facebook is not enough. Instead, I have a modest proposal.
Every time you feel outraged by what you read on social media, instead of liking or sharing, try stopping and taking a breath. Call your “friend.” Then phone your senators and representative. While I don’t have much faith in them either, I have more faith in them than in Facebook. Try this at least once a week. Here’s a link on which you can look up their numbers. I’ve added these numbers to my favorites and directory. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it’s just as satisfying. Imagine your congress person getting 10,000 calls a month.
The next step is to vote. Then march in the streets. For us to be outraged, we have to take some actual responsibility.
We are all connected. Savor the earth.
PS: If you can’t break your addiction to Facebook, here are some ways to limit your use and protect yourself.
L. Hobart Stocking
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