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How social networks divide us

December 11, 2016

Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck

Technology was supposed to make our lives better, wasn’t it?

Instead, we have fake news. We have trolls. We have the Divided States of America.

We can’t keep our mouths shut, or really, our fingers from typing nasty comments and responses. Social media is dividing us, and we’re willingly severing ties.

Did we really want all this when we joined Facebook and all those other networks?

Years ago when we signed on, we may have joined out of peer pressure or mild curiosity. Maybe we thought we’d promote our business, or see what everyone else was doing.

While social media has united us into little tribes, it has also split us apart for all kinds of reasons:

  • political arguments;
  • family squabbles;
  • misunderstandings;
  • religious differences;
  • trolling;
  • sports;
  • misguided help;
  • “drama”;
  • any reason, really.

We read into people’s reactions. We read into their lack of reactions: not enough Likes and retweets, not coming to our defense, not apologizing. We call out other people’s behavior to their friends, their bosses and their family members. We choose public shaming over private conversation. We choose more forceful words instead of gentle listening.

We make a big deal about cleaning up our friend lists and taking social media holidays. We live for the attention of others, but a very specific kind of attention. We perform rather than communicate.

Most of us bring this division on ourselves in two ways. We escalate situations through our responses. And we equate life on social media to real life.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to respond with kindness and empathy, without an assumption of other people’s tones and intentions. We can listen more. We can embrace people as complex creatures, not the sum of their silly photos, cryptic updates and hurtful words.

We can model the behavior we want to see in others every day.

Social media channels can unite or divide, but not on their own. We make that decision with each moment we spend online.

Let’s use that technology wisely.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Arlee Bird permalink
    December 12, 2016 9:25 am

    The divisions have gotten pretty ugly for sure and this has caused me to back off social media for a while. I put a big part of the blame on mainstream and internet “news” sources as this is what seems to be reflected in the other more personal divisive chatter we get on social media. A lot of people are merely parroting or expounding on what they’ve heard elsewhere whether it be true or not.

    Disturbing times in my view.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    • December 13, 2016 10:16 pm

      It’s understandable. A lot of people have reached their breaking point with online interaction.

      Thanks for being a calm voice amidst a noisy time, Lee.

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