Yes, we all are. No one seems immune. Last year speaks for itself. This year does, as well, especially if you live in Texas, where we just can’t seem to get a break. Currently, I’ve added Covid to my list of “What else can happen? Oh, it just did.” And as tired as I am from the virus, I think my exhaustion over social media is actually worse.
It’s certainly gone on longer. As I recall, it started somewhere near the beginning of Trump’s presidency when our country seemed to polarize more deeply from one day to the next. Suddenly, everyone was talking about politics everywhere, and since everyone was nowhere (Thanks, Covid), the only place to vent was social media.
This platform is a very dangerous one. It is WAY too easy to have a thought, pound it out on the keyboard, and hit Post. It is just as easy to respond to that thought without much thought, consideration, or reflection. But what’s even worse is that too many people take the approach that if they have an opinion, they have a right to share it, with no regard for respect, compassion, or an understanding of another’s perspective, ideals we used to venerate and now can’t be bothered with.
Social media has not only opened the doors to unsolicited opinions and advice, but it has also made it safe to spew vitriol from the relative safety of our own homes. We no longer have to summon the courage to look someone in the eyes and have a discussion or even an argument with them. And let’s face it, a face-to-face conversation has an element of intimidation that forces most of us to modify our language, rethink hateful comments before they leave our lips, and at least pretend to care about what the other person is saying.
But from behind a screen, it seems, anything goes. That includes some friendships. I’ve watched people battle it out on Facebook over a political decision or mask wearing or you name it, and I read people saying things like, “Hey, take that liberal sh*t somewhere else and stay off my wall!!” or “I would expect nothing less from a Trump supporter!” or “If you don’t agree with me, just go ahead and unfriend me!” And I just shake my head for the people we have allowed ourselves to become.
You’re probably wondering why, if it bothers me so much, I don’t just get off social media, and that’s a great question. My answer is that, aside from the obvious – I’m a writer and I have to know what’s going on in order to write about it – in many, many ways, social media has blessed my life.
As a former teacher for over two decades, I’ve connected with my now adult students and am able to keep up with their lives, hear about their careers, and see their families blossom. As a parent of two children who live in different states, I am able to see the photos they post and even follow some of their friends so I know what is going on in their lives. My mom lives in Florida and I have friended her friends, so now I have connections with people who look after her. And having moved to five different states, I have friendships I’ve been able to maintain over the miles, all through social media. Not to mention the extensive network I’ve built, so that whatever I need, wherever I’m going, someone has been there, done that, and can share resources and advice.
So you see my dilemma. Social media has strengthened bonds at the same time that it has made me shake my head in disgust over people I thought I knew. I hear from a former student who tells me how much I impacted her life, then I read a post from a friend stating that God is a man-made concept designed to appease the weak. I see a photo of a shockingly yellow school of fish from my daughter’s last dive in Maui, then I see a shockingly disparaging meme about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. All of this brings on the worst sort of whiplash – unexpected, painful, and jarring.
The only solution I’ve found is to refuse to engage. To commit my social media posts to lifting people up, to spreading happiness, and to supporting and encouraging others. If we all did that, I have to believe that we would all find a little more peace. I think it’s worth asking: What does your social media say about you? And are you okay with that? Is God?