Social media is shared space, like a town square.
I try to take responsibility for my own little corner of that space.
I try to fill it with flashes of humor and humanity while keeping it free of bigotry, oversharing, viral videos, memes of the moment, political propaganda, and all the other unkindnesses and trivialities we inflict on others simply because the technology allows it.
I try to remember how remarkable the technology actually is. The ability to insert ourselves into the daily rhythm of so many people’s lives, all at once, long after we last saw them in person is – and should probably still seem – exceedingly strange. If you’re not a little awed each time you hit ‘Post’ and watch your message go out to people you haven’t seen in fifteen years, maybe you’re taking this all a bit lightly.
I try to avoid taking that power for granted or wielding it in thoughtless, selfish ways. I try to think of people reading my words, not just of whether the words feel good to blurt onto the internet in the moment.
At least once per month, I seriously consider leaving Facebook. I find myself returning, again and again, to the idea that it’s not for me. It’s more information and more superficial connection with more people than I require. It’s distracting in ways that don’t benefit me. Too often, it makes me feel bad about myself or stuff happening in the world.
Just as I’m about to pull the plug, I notice that a big part of the experience I’m having is the connections I’ve chosen – the inputs I’ve allowed into my world – rather than Facebook per se. Hide, unfriend, unlike. All better for another month, probably. (I still reserve the right to pull the plug on the whole thing in the future, though.)
That’s the thing about this new media world: It is what we make it.
It used to be that most people had a fairly similar, predictable set of inputs. Same newspapers, same few television channels, same small-ish group of people (family at home, coworkers, closest friends) they interacted with daily. One could rebel against the defaults and travel in wider circles if one really worked at it, but for most people the range of influences to pick from was small and static.
The smaller pool of options made choosing seem simpler, since so many of the choices had already been made by the time they filtered down to the average person. Now that we’re better able to personally choose from an almost limitless range of inputs and acquaintances – especially online – the opportunity to curate the experience we want to have and embody the world we wish existed is ours.
Facebook sucks, but only if we let it. And if we do, that’s on us.