The Internet has opened up the door for a lot of communication and dialog that never happened before. The advent of social media has forever changed the human experience in ways that are both positive and negative, and this is a very dangerous thing.
Gone But Not Forgotten
One way that social media has changed our lives is that the people that you grew up with and grew apart from can still be a part of your lives– for better or worse. These people that would have faded into your past, along with all your mistakes and accomplishments, now feature front and center as you see their opinions, their carefully curated lives– or maybe what they decided to have for breakfast!
This means that you never really leave the past behind. Everything lives on– ideas that you had that you’ve discarded as outdated, people that you were friends with or dated and then broke up. We have little chance for life to move on and change as we’re constantly reminded of the past, and only see what people want us to see of their present.
Social Media can be a really helpful thing, but it can also bring lots of hurt, jealousy and gossip.
You Are Limited In How You Can Communicate
There are limits to what you can say online, moreso even than in person, and the opportunities for you to be misunderstood– in both directions!– are heightened.
Online missives are generally composed quickly, without much thought. The fact that you don’t really know the person means that your brain constructs the rest of the person that you’re conversing with based on what you’re talking about at present.
This effect is intensified if you disagree and it’s your first interaction.
This allows for easy mischaracterization of people, and that Strawman that was created replaces the individual on the other device that’s conversing with you.
Much like opponents on the field of war spend much time dehumanizing the enemy so as to be able to kill or hurt them, opponents on some of the more polarizing topics online spend lots of time dehumanizing people with opposing opinions in the attempts to justify their anger with an opposing view point.
One needs look no further than the State of the Union address where people sat down while national unemployment levels were at there lowest, or a little girl defeated cancer to see the steps that some will take to dehumanize someone that they disagree with.
Go to Twitter where there’s 280 characters a tweet and many tweets to respond to and the conversation can get incomprehensible really quickly.
All is Vanity
The preacher in Ecclesiastes states that all is vanity, and it’s as if he knew about Social Media. Much of what is said is to get likes, approval, and to grow an audience.
It’s best to realize what it is, and prepare yourself accordingly:
- Give more grace than normal.
- Be flexible and willing to listen.
- Remember that you don’t really know the person, and don’t make assumptions.
- Think hard before responding.
- Decide whether you really should be consuming the media and how much.
There is much that is good about being online– the diversity of opinions, finding those of like mind, challenging your own preconceived notions. There is also much that is not good.