Social Media Dilemma

One of my favorite 90s TV shows was Full House. If you haven’t seen the show, it was a situation comedy dealing with the daily challenges and joys of a widowed father of three young girls. Each character in the show had special tag lines. The middle daughter, Stephanie, whenever confronted by a troubling life situation, would scowl and say, “How RUDE!” I have to confess there were times I wanted to install a “How rude!” button on Facebook. Yet, when I really thought about it, my desire to use that judgmental commentary, would only multiply the negative energy of the original post! Besides, my mother taught me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Then I found several peace-filled people who said the words we share should be preceded by several silent questions: Is it true? Is it timely? Is it kind? Is it beneficial? Is it necessary? Those became my guides for my own comments and posts, but I still had to deal with incoming messages.

How was I going to handle the proliferation of crude language and cynical posts on my newsfeed? I knew these were friends and family members who are entitled to their opinions, and some of their posts aligned with the five questions even though others did not. Of course, I could avoid social media all together. (If you don’t like the TV show, turn it off!) That would be a reaction akin to the proverbial “disposing of the baby with the bath water,” hardly a proactive solution!

Step one, I would try to understand why people curse and particularly why it is shared in the public arena. To save you some time, I’ll say that science has determined that “taboo words” are deeply rooted in the more primitive part of the brain that processes emotions, and far from the areas that control intellectual processing. Because of those studies, I can honestly say that, when I experience a “slip of the lip,” I really am not thinking, but have let my emotions run away with me!

I also learned that social media makes people feel a sense of familiarity akin to hanging around with friends at a local pub, even though it is a very public forum. In one regard, this is good because, as some writers have noted, you get a more honest impression of a person by checking social media than you do in a job interview. On the other hand, when curse words are involved, you’re meeting the person on an emotional rather than intellectual level, which means that reason may have been checked at the door.

What if I just left the posts in my newsfeed and left no comment? I soon discovered that, as I scrolled, the repeated appearance of the negative memes, posts, and comments were having a deeper effect upon me. The very act of reading negative input, and then seeing it over and over as I scrolled, made my own thoughts more gloomy and cynical. Again, I thought I might need to disconnect.

Still, I recognized that the gift of social media allowed me to communicate with friends and family in a new way. Friendships were rekindled and physical distances between family members were electronically bridged. Sometimes the connections can be superficial, but at other times they were very profound. I didn’t want to close off that valuable connection.

Finally, I came across a trial solution. By clicking the little icon at the upper right hand corner of the posts that troubled me, I made the choice to “Hide this post.” People are certainly entitled to their opinion, but I didn’t have to allow negativity into my personal space.

I have been very pleased with this resolution because it enables me to read the post once and not see it over and over. The other thing I’ve noticed is that my newsfeed has clearly become more positive. There are less posts I’ve had to hide. I can only assume that the algorithm Facebook uses to determine which posts come into my newsfeed must be detecting the ones I am hiding. In a way, I think it is “learning” what posts I enjoy reading. Thanks for your help, Facebook!

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