Every day, I usually do a quick scroll though Facebook because: it has become a second inbox, it’s how I remember birthdays, and it allows me to stay connected to my family, friends, and students from around the world.

I consider it a good day when I don’t have to leave the house.

On this particular occasion, I was having a giggle over the above image. Was it 100% accurate? Of course not, but I gave it a thumbs up. Then I saw the last comment, “As a Virgo, this isn’t accurate at all…” And I thought, what a killjoy. Obviously the post was supposed to be funny (and not at anyone’s expense I might add).

I continued to scroll then stopped at an expat in China sharing a photo of a train filled with mask wearers with the caption, “This is how one of the largest countries in the world contains the virus!” Good god. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was essentially bragging over the cooperation of Chinese people, something as a foreigner, he has nothing to do with.

This isn’t the first post I’ve seen along these lines either. We love our “grass is greener” fantasies. I have them too, but I somehow always end up getting burned by them. [Expats like to do this with their passport country depending on whether or not it serves them. Heck, travelers do too, but that’s one of the reasons why we travel, right? to get out of our comfort zones and see how the other half lives.]

Currently, there are 3.5 million Americans who have COVID. That’s insane and scary, and people’s health are being compromised in ways we’re not even fully aware of, and they’re dying.

Me face-bragging about my circumstances in a low-COVID cases city doesn’t feel right. It shouts ‘Naninanibooboo, I’m doin fine!’ which is not something to announce because life can change at the drop of a cough or an ill-fated moment. While I understand the photo, it reflects an insensitivity that is considered normal these days.

Of course, we all know people like this, the killjoy, the braggart, the foaming-mouth political fanatic, the preacher. But generally, we aren’t exposed to all these characters at once. I think that’s why social is so heartbreaking at times; in the span of a few seconds or minutes, you can be hit with highs and lows, smiles and sarcasm, video clips on breathtaking joys, then unspeakable violence. No wonder everyone’s losing their minds…

Remember this? It’s been awhile, right?

Sometimes it feels like social media posts are either: a) entertaining/funny, b) I have all the answers, or c) My life is better than yours (kudos if you can offer all three). And most of us haven’t quite figured out how to share useful news, probably because there’s so little of it.

Practical jokes don’t go over too well on FB either. Ever been on the receiving end of one? I have, and it’s not funny. Although, I get it. It’s new territory, but how long are we going to use that as an excuse? I keep waiting for an adult to show up and tell everyone to behave. I mean, think about it, the best FB groups or forums are run by folks who mediate and vigilantly cull the crap . We need leaders, big and small.

This was refreshing. Loved the older woman at the very end.

When I was growing up, “I’m a student of life” was a rather popular saying. The idea being you are simply here to learn, you know nothing, or very little, teach me, dear Life, I’m a humble creature in your hands. Yeah, it’s a nice motto, but it got old. It felt incomplete. It wasn’t until I had a big down-on-my-knees moment that I realized, hey, we’re all teachers too.

You don’t have to be in a classroom to teach. If I watch a driver cut through a gas station, guess what? someone else is going to do the same damn thing in order to avoid waiting at the red light. Graffiti in one area of town invites other graffiti to show up. Watching other folks donate money, makes you feel like donating money. Yawns aren’t the only contagious action, so are behaviors and words.

But how do we return to policing each other? Should we? I remember when it was perfectly okay for a different parent to say, “Hey, that’s not nice” when we kids were acting out of line. These days, that well-meaning behavior is grounds for a lawsuit. We’ve been conditioned to “mind our own business” or get in trouble, and look the other way when something wrong is happening.

Maybe though the problem is too much policing. Too much finger-wagging. Or maybe everyone’s values are too different now. It seems like the world has flipped from “I’m a student” to “I’m a teacher” mentality. Ideally, we should try to remember that we are both.

As we double down on tribalism, filter our social feeds, we’re ironically shrinking our worldview in the Age of Information. We’re also being heavily censored around the globe by the powers-that-be, and isn’t it strange that something meant to connect us is unraveling humanity?

When I first started to write this, I wanted to look at our behavior on social (because I’m perfect and you’re not), but then I realized the way we inhale information almost seems like the kind of conditioning you’d do to torture someone. Same goes for the daily doom and gloom reports.

Then I remembered my old epiphany of “we’re all teachers” and now I’m wondering what the heck are we supposed to do about all this. How do we look out for ourselves and others? Has social become a form of self-harm? Should we PM friends and say, “Are you okay? You seem really angry these days” or is that just a bomb that needs to be left to defuse on its own?

Should we be talking more or less?

A high school friend posted how he didn’t wear his mask out of defiance/freedom to a local grocery store, but this was followed up by friends who said kindly, please wear it, we care about you. And now he’s been posting about getting and wearing designer masks.

Another childhood friend took an interesting approach when she asked for clarification and thoughts over policing. She carefully worded it. No one liked it but she got plenty of engagement, lots of discussion about people’s experiences with the police.

Perhaps social media is pushing us to socially, mentally, and spiritually develop faster than ever before. Again, one of the ironies of technology, we don’t have to talk face to face, but we’ve got to figure out how to communicate with the same sensitivity and clarity. It’s an adult-free world wide web filled with plenty of adult-content.

Or perhaps we’re learning, and we’ll figure it out. Because it’s not just what’s happening to us, it’s what we’re doing to each other, too. It’s just going to take time, right?

What to you think? Is social media self harm or much ado about nothing? What should our roles be?

31 replies on “Social media: self harm or much ado about nothing?

  1. A very thoughtful post, Lani.

    I don’t go on certain social media sites any more. I feel myself tensing up when I do. It seems SM is the place people turn to when they are most outraged. It appears custom made for such a purpose.

    In SM land, few people are interested in what I have to write. I don’t take that personally because I hardly ever post, so most likely I don’t appear in my friends’ newsfeeds.

    Still, it is a great tool for quickly passing on vital emergency information. During the summer bushfires, fire had surrounded the area where my father lived. A friend was quickly able to tell me whether that area had been impacted (It hadn’t), because she had friends staying in that area.

    I agree with you that social media is changing the way we interact on all levels of society. Political parties/governments all have social media strategies. Some have both domestic and international strategies, and there is great scope for manipulating popular opinion. It seems a poor tool for making available nuanced and considered information because that is not what generates clicks. And clicks generate advertising revenue. That’s my opinion anyway. Lol, aren’t you glad you asked.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I struggled to understand Twitter for years, then finally got off of it. However, it’s a great tool for up-to-date and quick news. When the boys were stuck in the cave in Northern Thailand (close to where I was living), Twitter was amazing. Actually, very positive messages from RTW telling the boys to stay alive.

      I used to use IG more, but after a friend started posting TONS of messages about politics, etc, I couldn’t stand it anymore. Sometimes our efforts to be informed and right end up exhausting everyone involved.

      And now that I’ve had more time to reflect on SM, I wonder what how we’re treating each other – and ourselves.

      Thanks, Tracy.

      Like

      1. I’m not what we are teaching each other either. Maybe it is like having some great bosses/leaders/teachers/communicator and some terrible ones. Perhaps all teach powerful lessons on how to be a better boss/leader/teacher/communicator?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. So agree with you, Tracy. I also remember social media played an important role in the Australian bushfires. I live in Melbourne and found the fastest and most up to date information about the crisis was through social media (in particular Twitter) – and also felt the most honest accounts came from there from everyday people who just wanted to help each other.

      Social media by most part is controlled by ever-changing algorithm, and I guess this is also partly driven by advertising. I remember before I was into astrology, my Instagram feed recommended me none of that. After following a few astrology accounts, I was constantly recommended similar accounts and posts. I am also constantly recommended people’s photos whom I clicked on once or scrolled through.

      Over the years I’ve fallen out of love with posting on social media. I used to like posting but these days not anymore. I guess this feeling comes from preferring to keep most of my current and future life private , and I just like it that way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for jumping into the conversation, Mabel. All are welcome. Totally agree. Having a blog is more personal I think. This is a great generalisation (so there will be exceptions), but I find that bloggers tend to a least consider both sides of an argument before coming to a position. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Lani,

    You do have a way with words. I like this post very much. I too wonder what changes we will see in society in the future. I agree we are being pushed to evolve faster than ever before. Some days I can manage very well and other days I get annoyed with anyone coming within 50 feet of me. I think the universe is culling the herd. I feel sad for humanity, but the choices some are making because they feel entitled are huge face palms. Stay safe you two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It was a fun post to write, but by the end of it I felt more distance and wanted it to be more concise. There’s so much to say but I’m did come away from it more enlightened, if that makes sense.

      The big thing now is the FREAKING OUT that everyone seems to be going through. At this pt, I can’t help but wonder if all the panic buttons will be hit by the end of the year.

      Stay safe too!

      Like

  3. I have had conflicted opinions about social media. Ofcourse it’s an amazing way to keep in touch with people and an easy way to keep abreast about what’s happening. It also is a useful medium for discussions and debates. But I always see the harm it does! It can definitely be used to influence people. For me personally, I choose minimal social media.

    Like

  4. “Yawns aren’t the only contagious action, so are behaviors and words.”
    So much truth in this, and this post is very well woven together.
    Personally I feel that too much social media is too much simulation. As an introvert I would say it feels a lot like how I feel drained after prolonged social interaction and just need to peace out. Social media is a powerful tool no doubt, and if we’re careful enough to choose our sources and use our discretion, a powerful information center as well. It can make us learn and think in different ways.
    I know I’m sabotaging that growth when I lessen my time on social media – something I’ve been deliberately doing these days.
    But I’m sure that the information I need will find me eventually and that learning – if it truly were learning – would leave me curious and tired in a good way and not drained as social media did.
    I’m aware that it’s different for everyone, this is what I felt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like your comparison to being an introvert. It is draining at times. SM has become so toxic too that I wonder if there is a decline in usage? Or are there so many people on social that it doesn’t even register?

      I’ve definitely taken a step back and trying to get back on it as been like trying to get back into the gym. 😛 I start to think of something to write, and then I’m like, nah, I’ll wait until I actually have something of value to share.

      Thanks for reading along! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That pausing before writing and re-thinking the words – can totally relate to that! That’s me these days, haha.
        My pleasure to drop by, love going through your blog. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve pretty much opted out of social media. Blogging is as close as I get, but I only follow about 8 people here. Hard to gauge the long term effects of social media but It’s safe to assume they’ll be mostly negative.
    One of the biggest problems is how addictive they are, you kind of wonder what great things are never even started on account of all the time sunk into these platforms

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent observation. A popular podcaster was talking about his video game obsession but it can be applied to SM as well. He said after you’ve sunk an ungodly amount of hours into the game, what do you have to show for it? Now what?

      If you put those same amount of hours towards a skill, or anything else like learning a language, at least you have something to show for it.

      Like

      1. Yah, it’s worth thinking about. Probably for the first time in our evolution as a species we can spend hours actively engaged in a task and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end! Multiply that by tens of millions and that’s a whole lot of missed opportunities

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Blogging is where my social media focus is, generally. But FB and Twitter (to a lesser extent) can be useful for getting my posts out into the general SM world. I engage in very little of the ranting and raving on SM, because I find it useless. I was late to SM, joining up only after starting my blog, so I (luckily) got away without having high school acquaintances and their pyramid schemes finding me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 Ha! You’re so lucky! It was a high school friend that convinced me to get on FB, claiming all of our friends from years ago were on it. And now she’s nowhere to be seen on social. 😛

      I popped over to IG after taking a break and honestly, it took one negative post to put me off. All the other posts were great, it was nice to catch up, but it just takes one to leave a bad taste in your mouth, so after supporting my friends, I left.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Clearly you’re better connected via social media to get some of these great infographics. I loved the mask one and the 7 digital sins!

    Now…
    “Perhaps social media is pushing us to socially, mentally, and spiritually develop faster than ever before. Again, one of the ironies of technology, we don’t have to talk face to face, but we’ve got to figure out how to communicate with the same sensitivity and clarity. ”

    Hmm. Social media can push to be “better” if we make a conscious effort to sift the grain from straw. Which can waste a freakin’ amount of personal time better spent doing something else. That is the problem with social media. Alot of murmuring and shouting voices, sometimes expressing the same sentiment but in different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get where you are coming from. I guess I was trying to see the good about social media as well – maybe we can learn to communicate digitally (no avoiding it at this pt!) better because right now I love being able to communicate with my friends and family through social and e-mails.

      But yeah, we weren’t even very good at face to face communication. Plenty of ways to misunderstand each other already! 😛

      Like

  8. And I only blog and participate in 1 international Internet forum (for cycling) which I’ve been the latter member for past decade.

    None of my friends nor my siblings are into Facebook nor Twitter. Myself and a niece are the only ones in extended family that are blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Our Family of Four were just talking last night over dinner (one of the perks of The Madness – we spend more time around the table) about Who is Responsible? over social media. Particularly the issue of children getting hurt because of Fake Cooking videos.

    With the potential of unsupervised children accessing all sorts of things out there is staggering & frightening.

    But I think with all tools and resources, it comes down to self-management (for us adults) and parental management (for children). Social media and the internet have wonderful resources & perks, as they have pitfalls and dangers. So, we are back to thoughtful use.

    Thank you for your thoughtfully written post, Lani, on a subject which warrants much consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      I had no idea about the cooking videos. How strange. Many of my female students like to watch cooking vids, but I hadn’t heard about children getting hurt.

      It’s too easy for parents to let phones babysit their children these days. I think some PSAs or Public Service Announcements / education is needed to help folks become aware of the issues.

      Like

  10. What a bucket of worms you opened up, Lani! I loved all your points on social media and the stories you shared about different people’s posts and reactions. Social media is wild.

    I think social media is wonderful, in the sense that people who have never had a voice in the face of oppression (ex. corrupt authority, the violation of human and/or civil rights) now have ways to spark much-needed movements.

    At the same time, it IS much ado about nothing in that a lot of people are hair-trigger sensitive and choose not to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. It all becomes so dramatic on social media.

    Seriousness aside, it is fun and I enjoy how I can connect with a lot of friends I’ve not been able to visit or even call all that often this year. Not through commenting on their posts (I feel like that has its place, but we often equate commenting and liking with actual social engagement) but DMing them about our daily lives and common interests. I’ve had a lot of great conversations on social this year.

    OK, stepping off my soapbox now. Thanks for sharing, Lani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, thank you for sharing your experiences, didn’t feel soapboxy at all 😛

      Yeah, it is amazing what we can now do. I think back to the original Star Trek and everyone with their little communicator and now we all pretty much have one, just waiting for them to beam me up!

      Like

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