Lately I’ve been struggling with how to handle social media. Through sites like Facebook I am to get updates from old friends, remain connected with folks from Central Baptist and my other social circles, and even offer comfort to people in their times of need. I love this, I really do.
But the ugliness is getting to me.
First and foremost is the outrage. It seems as though social media is the place to express anger and vitriol and dehumanizing mockery. Expressing this type of outrage – against conservatives, liberals, Obama, gun owners, police, muslims, atheists, Christians, Evangelicals, Americans, children, schools, and whatever else we’ll think of this week – is easy to do through these forums. In fact, expressing outrage via social media typically costs nothing and often results in pats on the back and the “hear hear” of the echo chamber. Outrage on social media is rewarded so effectively that it seems to be taking over my feeds1.
Second to this, and only barely so, is the counter outrage – when a whole other group is offended by the outrage of others and invokes their own set of memes, links, and insinuations. Like it’s kin, this type of outrage typically costs very little. In fact, it is often rewarded even more than “normal outrage.” Pats on the back are more frequent, and the “so there” echo chamber is even louder than the one which triggers its existence.
The current nature of social media has left me resolved to share very little about my opinions on current issues through its forums. Sometimes I fall short of this goal, but generally I keep to it. It’s easier that way.
What I struggle with, however, is that there are real problems in this world which must be addressed. There is systemic injustice perpetrated upon African Americans in this country, and #blacklivesmatter. Police are not all evil minions of injustice, and sometimes we need to listen to their struggles. I get how the endless litany of gun violence in this country drives proponents of gun regulation bonkers. Yet I grew up around hunters and don’t see gun owners as a faceless blob of potential felons.
So how do I interact with these real issues in a way which engages without being drawn into the echo chamber mentality of the social media culture wars? Is it even possible?
I don’t have an answer, just a conundrum.
- Nor am I immune to the temptation myself. ↩