I shuddered a lot last week. Each time I saw someone on social or conventional media suggest we “shut down” our Facebook accounts or just “delete the app,” a chill went up my arms.
No. Just no.
I realize it’s what all the cool kids were saying when Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were down for the better part of a workday recently. Especially crazy because it was right after a whistleblower had had her say on 60 Minutes about the damage the apps are doing, such as perpetuating untruths that threaten our democracy.
I’ll come out of the gate with this – I’m appalled at what the whistleblower revealed and we need accountability in this realm. Full stop.
However, I’m going to posit that most of the people who can easily delete the Facebook app from their lives aren’t using it in any real way. I’m highly respectful of those who decide it’s not for them, but I am so over some of these same people slamming an app they don’t fully utilize or understand.
Social media requires attention, cultivation, dialogue. Again, I get it if this isn’t your jam, but then please step off from telling the rest of us to get rid of it like it’s as easy as taking out the trash.
I just got a new writing opportunity. It was 100 percent because I am in a Facebook community of freelancers.
I just had a stimulating conversation with a kindred spirit who advocates for having more women in political office. She is a connection made purely through Facebook.
A coaching client of a decade ago recently reached out for more coaching. Our only contact in the last 10 years has been through Facebook.
I water my social media garden, people. I fill that watering can almost every day. We all know the folks who come on and post only when they have something to promote. I call it “post and run.” You can tell they’re there out of obligation.
Not me. I get ideas for columns. I voraciously read comments sections for opposing views. I’ve taken trips to Italy and Palm Springs because of connections made. I’ve built a community I enjoy immensely, even if it’s just to dash off an observation on the state of the world. I follow a variety of media outlets.
Sure, I share pics of my walks, wanderings, food, loved ones. But it’s not only about that for me. It’s ALL of it. The totality of the experience.
A friend once said she’d just realized that a lot of people who are active on Facebook live alone. Yes! That’s another whole side of this. I like living alone, but it’s fun to be able to share a thought via social media. Some find that kind of interaction “less than.” I find it is its own kind of valuable.
Why compare the genuineness of a Facebook friend to a real-life friend? In many cases, apples and oranges. I have both, thank you very much. And I consider my life rich.
Let me be clear. I don’t want Facebook allowing right-wing extremists to run with a fantasy about a stolen election to the point of inciting violence. But nor do I want the rest of us who responsibly engage – and benefit from – the app to be punished.
I’m not enough of a tech whiz to have an answer to the problem. I’ve seen comparisons of this to the tobacco industry. Cigarettes kill or at the very least adversely affect a person’s health. We have warning labels and age limits on those. Alcohol is legal, but I think we all know some people whose walk into a liquor store can be lethal.
We’ve identified these as addictions and, yes, social media can be one, too. But that brings me back to the many of us who enjoy its merits without plotting to gear up and blow up a Black Lives Matter rally.
In the case of Instagram reportedly causing poor body image in teen girls, I have one word – sickening. I’d be remiss, though, in not mentioning how many times as a sports columnist in the 1990s I wrote about studies that showed how harmful women’s and girls’ magazines were for young females.
Looks like those have been replaced and there’s a new villain. Now an insecure teen sees her classmates on Instagram posing and fronting, but doesn’t recognize it as such. They often idealize what they see on social media, take it at face value.
You know the antidote to that, right? Raise girls with less focus on their looks. Prepare them for the onslaught they’ll undoubtedly get once unleashed into the real world. If the bulk of the positive attention she got growing up was on how pretty she was or how fabulous her shoes were, what did she learn? Contrast that with a boy getting positive attention for what he knows or accomplishes instead.
Certainly in 2021 this has gotten better as people become more aware in their parenting, but it’s an ongoing challenge. Insecure children will become insecure adults who will be more vulnerable, easily shaped by outside forces.
Self-actualized people don’t constantly compare themselves to others. They recognize that sometimes social media posts are contrived. If they see an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend moving on, they’ll take the hit as a mature adult, feel the pain, learn from mistakes.
You get the idea.
Social media is still so new, always evolving. Our laws are a step behind. Heck, the bulk of our lawmakers don’t even understand it.
Let Facebook take its lumps. Implement major steps to provide oversight. But also remember that gullible people are a big part of the problem. What can we do about that? I don’t think there’s a solution. But please, don’t punish the rest of us for their inability to cultivate critical thinking skills.
I’ve learned how to make social media enhance and enrich my life. Those who mock it as a way to post what we had for lunch probably never got it in the first place. And again, that’s OK, free country and all.
But please let the rest of us enjoy it in peace.