The Good, Bad and Ugly of Social Media, Part 3 — The Ugly
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about how the best part of social media is how it connects us to so much information and people that we might not have otherwise accessed. The flip side to the wonderful connection and Part 2 of the series was about the incredible amount of noise and distraction that can result. In both of these, I provided tactics on how to best manage your interactions, how to frame yourself, and how to be intentional about the who, what and how of the social media you consume. In this post, Part 3, I am going to talk about the ugly side of social media and how you can get involved in battling against it.
The Ugly: Bullying & Abuse
The beauty of the connection and information you get through social media is marred by the ease with which people can reach others in harmful ways. The anonymity of the internet allows people to feel free to speak openly about things they are not comfortable conversing about in other avenues. They can find others who share their beliefs/ideology/feelings/etc. and be a part of a community. But that anonymity also makes some people feel free to spew their anger and hate at others. The ugly part of social media comes in when it is used to bully and abuse others.
How can we battle the hate? The fake news, the lies, the racism, the sexism, the bigotry? How can we be intentional in pushing back against the ugliness of social media in ways that are impactful?
1. Don’t be part of the problem
There is a lot of intense emotion among the discord and noise on social media. I know that I can barely read headlines without wanting to shut off my computer for the day to snuggle my cats. There are people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds that I have had to unfollow because I can’t support their views. It is not to say that their views are not valuable, but rather I have made the choice to not engage with them in this medium because bickering over Facebook is unlikely to change someone’s opinion. I have seen too many times people getting into a vicious posting battle that usually just escalates to name-calling.
While I certainly have my opinions, and I am not afraid to share them, I instead look for other ways to exercise the freedoms that I am granted as a Canadian. I am so privileged. I think most of the people that will read this are too. I believe that there is a responsibility that comes with this privilege to be a part of, even in small ways, combating the ugliness we see on social media, the internet, and in our little slice of the world. To me, this means not engaging with internet trolls. Not posting things that I don’t know the source of. Being kind. I don’t think we should censor ourselves, but I do think that there are more impactful and intentional ways for going about utilizing the amazing community and connection that social media can provide.
2. Find ways to be part of the solution.
I read the following articles on activism and ways to be engaged and proactive in meaningful ways. They were posted by someone on my Facebook feed (I won’t name them but they post a lot of great articles). This is a perfect example of how sharing of information on social media can be an amazing platform for good.
Both of these articles are excellent at identifying the real paralysis that many of us feel with so much overwhelming need for action and how to move past it. Social media is a tool to get the word out about some of the amazing work that people are doing to make a difference in the world, or even in our own city. These articles have some great approaches to being part of the solution:
The summary of the suggestions from this article is as follows:
- Donate time or money
- Hold your elected leaders accountable
- Continue agitating
- Stay updated
- Educate yourself
- Take care of yourself
Jenny Zhang, does a great job providing additional links to organizations to look into and ways to achieve the things listed above AND is it Canadian-centric. What I like is that each of these things requires varying levels of effort. We live full lives. We all have a million other things pulling at our attention. There are things we can do that take so little effort but have the potential to make a big difference. Whether it is as small as donating some money online or as big as running for office, we all have the power to do SOMETHING.
The summary of the suggestions from this article is as follows:
STEP ZERO: Give yourself a moment to breathe.
STEP ONE: Make a list of what you’re good at.
STEP TWO: Make a list of your limitations.
STEP THREE: Make a list of people and organizations who need support.
STEP FOUR: Make a list of people and organizations you are connected with.
STEP FIVE: Put it all together.
Madison Mahdia Lynn provides an emotionally honest and intentional approach to taking action. It is one that I really connected with because it leaves room for the fear, the anxiety, and the truth of our own weaknesses, but also for our strengths. She summarizes by saying, “Be mindful of your limitations, but more importantly celebrate what you excel in”. Love it.
Another great example is the Women’s March on Washington website. I went to the march here in Edmonton but felt a kind of discord after because I knew that attending the march was not enough. As Jenny Zhang says in her article, “The most dangerous thing we could do is pat ourselves on the back and be complacent with a single show of symbolic unity”. The Women’s March on Washington website is, of course, American-centric. But it is still a great tool for looking at what other people are doing to take action in respectful, civil, and conscious ways.
3. Be kind
I thought a lot about how I wanted to frame article. I considered the tactics I wanted to share and the more I reflected, the more I thought: “If everyone would just be kind to each other this wouldn’t be a problem”. This is both overly simplistic and overly complicated at the same time. The truth is, I have a hard time understanding how people can be so awful to one another. Being mean and cruel to others literally does not compute for me.
At the end of the day, I think it has to come back to intention. When you post on the internet, you have a responsibility to the people who will consume it. Be kind, be respectful, be nice and be thoughtful. If you can’t be any of those things, consider what you will get out of posting and whether it is worth it. THINK.
Social media (and the internet in general) can be an unforgiving and ugly place. It is full of so much anger and hate that it is tempting to want to respond in-kind. It is hard to not vent the pent up frustration. However, I think it is our responsibility to ensure that we are doing our part to engage in conscious and intentional ways that combat the vitriol. We need to make an effort to leave space for opposing opinions but in ways that are respectful and educated. We need to be part of the solution by taking action, like the articles above suggest, and not let ourselves be bystanders.