Merriam-Webster defines social as something positive or enjoyable: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things …
When I was first persuaded to join the social media fray years ago, it was a positive experience for me. I could keep up with friends and family; I could promote my murder mysteries; and I could meet other authors and learn from them. I genuinely looked forward to the updates that came my way.
It’s not like that now.
Now, for every positive and uplifting thing I see, I see at least three or four extremely negative, even disturbing, things. There are actually days when I now avoid social media altogether in the hopes of avoiding the sadness that so often accompanies what I read.
I suppose it was inevitable, but in my naiveté I was lulled into a false sense of security and positivity.
Little by little, negative comments began to encroach upon my euphoric haven. A favorite pet’s death or debilitating illness, and the abuse of animals replete with graphic photos appeared in my formerly serene world. I was shocked and traumatized over and over again.
I tried to address some of my concerns with Facebook. Apparently, they’re made of tougher stuff than I am. They didn’t see the problem.
I will say some social media sites are becoming a bit more vocal about ending the online abuse. For example, in late 2016, Instagram rolled out a setting that allows users to “turn off commenting” on their photos. This can stop trolls from taking over a user’s photo as a feeding ground for negativity.
Likewise, Twitter has begun to suspend – and delete – accounts that promote inappropriate content and extremism. As stated in its 2016 “Transparency Report”, it suspended nearly 400,000 accounts for violating their terms and conditions. The majority of these accounts were related to “promotion of terrorism” but it’s interesting to see social networking sites at least attempting to rid content from advocating political or religious violence.
But neither of these stops me from seeing animal abuse pictures, so I’ve done my best to tough it out and employ my own rapid-delete process to minimize the longterm emotional distress.
However, things have clearly taken a turn for the worst within the last year. I believe the negativity was exacerbated by the recent presidential election. Folks on all sides of the issues have seen this election as carte blanche to unleash their feelings of hostility upon their fellow social media posters.
It has become virtually impossible to expose oneself to social media without also being exposed to the most horrific written abuse from anyone who disagrees. And these comments are taking an extremely personal form. Most are not merely saying, “I see your point and I don’t happen to agree.” It’s more like, “you’re a scumbag moron who doesn’t deserve to live.” Come on people, is this really necessary? My view of people in general is deteriorating rapidly.
Let’s assume that this negativity is somehow necessary. I propose that anti-social media sites should be created. At first blush that may sound ludicrous, but I believe it may be our greatest shot at salvation. Let the haters and the downers bond together and get this depreciation and dispiriting of other humans out of their systems in a forum that sets them aside from the social world that would prefer to remain positive. The haters could find kindred spirits and revel in their hostility without discouraging the bulk of the population. Should they have a non-hating thought to share, they could jump back into mainstream social media until the urge to abuse overtakes them once again.
But seriously, I had thought that we as humans had evolved beyond this constant level of animosity. I am deeply saddened that we haven’t.