I honestly don’t remember my first true social media account.
I’ve been active in online chatrooms and message board communities since I was in high school in the mid-1990s in Wolsey. I do know that along the way, I was an early adopter to MySpace and then Facebook in college. Twitter informed me late last year that I’d been on that platform for 10 years now.
Social media often has its place. We can keep in touch with family and friends who may be many miles away. Sharing pictures and videos of children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and pets is so much easier on the format as you can connect a host of people in one quick share rather than needing the phone number of many people to send a large group text.
I spent multiple years working heavily on social media for jobs to promote articles written by staffers under my editorial purview. Scheduling when a particular article would be broadcast on social media to gain the most eyes was a game that could make or break an article, and with each writer paid by the clicks on his or her article, that could mean a successful or not successful article.
Yes, social media does have its place.
But it has overgrown that place.
Perhaps, better put, the ability to regulate the interactions and influences on the increasing advertising going on in social media spaces has outgrown the original intent of social media.
The 2016 election has already been widely marked as a significant point of intrusion, where outside influences changed how we thought and felt about issues based on the things that were shown on social media pages. Nothing has let up since.
This year opened with impeachment debates dominating social media. It seems like almost a simpler time to be so unilaterally focused in a debate.
That lasted just until late January, however, as the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was confirmed in Washington state. Within a month, that state had a full-blown outbreak, and a month later, Huron had lost a teacher, a representative, and more importantly, two very special people to their families and their community.
Of course, debates on the validity of COVID-19 were just part of the social media coverage of the virus. As proactive measures to ensure public safety were taken, outcry erupted over the lack of ability to get a haircut or sit at a bar for a shot of bourbon. You know, the important things in life.
The death of Breonna Taylor in March greased the outrage wheels that fully turned after the video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police was made public. That sparked a long-needed public outcry and reflection over race, police brutality, and so many other topics in this country.
All along, rather than using these monumental opportunities to have healthy, meaningful discussions across the distances with friends and family that we’ve kept connected with on our social media platforms, polarization ensued.
The answers to many of the issues confronting society are hard, exhausting, and will take time and effort to truly process and work through. That’s led to many seeking out “quick fixes” to these issues, not all that different to the way I look for the next fad diet.
Sadly, those fad diets haven’t worked. Neither will these quick fixes.
The conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 virus has anything to do with an election, the “quick fix” that bad behavior causes all issues with policing nationwide, or that all “of this” is the working of either party…well, that’s all fad dieting.
They are a quick solution, and each pulls its followers to an extreme camp that does little to converse with the opposite side, instead putting together cat memes to emphasize their particular side of the argument. Nothing gets done, other than frustration with the world around us.
So, today, instead of Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, or any of the rest, unplug. Take time to have a real, open conversation with someone who disagrees with you and attempt to come to a compromised position.
You might find that it’s an easier thing to do than you were led to believe.
Perhaps then, we can remember how to put the social back into social media.