Prompt #1: Five problems with social media
I’ve been thinking about this for more than a week, and I’ve found it much easier to think of good things about social media. Which means, I’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I’ve gone from Luddite status with curmudgeonly feelings about these cell phones, to a user. I’ll never be an early adopter – I tend to jump on a band wagon when the thing is actually fulfilling a need I have rather than just being an expensive little toy I could really do without.
When I consider problems, they are not so much about social media as they are about devices and our obsession with them, our need to have that rectangle in our hands 24/7.
I work on a college campus and phones are ubiquitous. No one is without and they are rarely not in a hand. They are rarely tucked away inside a pocket, purse or backpack. They rule our worlds. Most people now are wandering the streets staring at the rectangle rather than their surroundings (which includes millions of other rectangle-obsessed zombies).
I will admit that I’ve grown to not hate mine but I can go hours and hours without needing to look at it, check it, make sure people still know I exist. I do my best to use it to help and not let it rule my existence. Part of my change of mind has simply been that I now have teenagers. Back when my kids were little, I knew where there were and other adults were watching them. Now, that’s not always the case.
But social media. It is good in that it equalizes us, brings us on onto the same plane. Rich, poor, celebrity, average Jill, we can all chatter together in that universe. I can follow celebrity Instagram accounts (I’m not on Twitter but chances are you are) and they can follow me back. Not that I’m followed by any celebrities or their publicity staff but it’s possible. Average folks have become minor celebrities by being YouTubers. My daughter follows about two dozen of them. I don’t have that kind of time. But anyone can do it.
Which leads to the first problem: it’s a time suck. When you could be reading an actual book or taking a walk or hanging out having real conversations (all of which my kids do btw), people are instead staring at a little screen. Perhaps, though, what they’re looking at is a book. Or it’s telling them how many miles they’ve walked today. Or they’ve gotten a text from someone they’ll be seeing irl who is running late. So it’s good and it’s bad. Like everything.
Another problem: trolls. Mean people. People who, because they can be semi-anonymous, and are so filled with hate and rage, spend their lives leaving nasty comments everywhere. One of my mantras is “never read the comments” on any article that floats across my screen that looks interesting enough to read. If you want to see the worst of us? Read the comments.
Problem three: Where there are people, there is false information. Checking your sources have never been more important. There is so much garbage and misinformation out there. It’s like we’re wading in the back pages of comic books that offer “work at home” opportunities to make lots of money. Don’t believe it. Don’t even believe it if all your well-meaning and otherwise intelligent friends are sharing that misinformation. The most recent one I’ve seen is that this year’s flu shot is not only ineffective but dangerous. Please. If that had been true, we’d have read about it in a legitimate publication. And even then, it may not be accurate. I’ve fallen for this kind of thing before. We all have. We’re human and we’re busy and there are certain things we’d really like to think is true. It’s probably not.
Another issue for me is just the constant barrage of information. There is just so much “information” out there. I do not have a huge friend list on FB. I don’t follow a lot of sites/publications/companies/organizations because I just can’t handle all that information all the time. It jumbles around in my brain and becomes garbage. I don’t have time to filter it and decide what’s real, what’s fake, whether I care. There’s a lot of stuff that insists I care about it. I try to look for the good and ignore the bad. That’s hard to do. I try not to add my “same” and “ditto” to the jumble of it. It is just too much.
Five: This really isn’t about social media per se but about using it. Or not. Access is still not equal. Somewhere along the line, we were all duped into believing we needed all these devices and now we all have them (and seemingly can’t live without them) but they don’t always work when we need them to. Because phone companies have complicated expensive plans with inadequate coverage. And the internet service is separate and equally fraught with problems. And we need wifi to use all the other apps we must have, but there’s no universal wifi coverage like there should be. It should be treated like a utility, not controlled by tight-fisted capitalists. It’s spotty and not always free when it exists. I live in a rural area where my internet is not fast/robust/whatever the right terms are to stream much of anything. Even a short video can just stop and buffer itself into oblivion. Often, I just give up and shut everything down.
Which is not really a problem for me when what I’m trying to do is of no real consequence, like writing a blog post about it. I’m occasionally annoyed when I can’t watch what sounds like an interesting show that is only available through a streaming service.
But, really. There are only so many hours in a day. And we should be spending as many of them as possible taking a walk, reading a book, and talking to other humans. Face to face. In real time. Which I’m going to go do right now.