I had a situation on social media this morning. I posted a sincere feeling about how we all need to be kind towards one another, as we can work together better when we’re kind. Kindness opens ears and minds and hearts. And it makes you feel good.
Thing is, someone proved my point by twisting what I said and being unkind to me. It was a total shock, as I had the best of intentions. I really think we can move mountains as a society if we’re not sanctimonious to each other. If we listen, or try to understand, if we don’t make assumptions or imply someone else is lacking, if we remember that the written word only says so much — we can solve the world’s problems.
The reply astounded me. My feelings aren’t easily hurt, but I don’t like intimidation attempts. I don’t like when people feel superior by busting on someone else, especially without comprehending your text as it was intended. I don’t like when people are mean for the sake of being mean.
But then I realized that it was ALL MY OWN FAULT.
Why? Because I allowed it to happen. I didn’t have to let people into my personal life and I don’t have to let them into my thoughts. I don’t have to give them a space to be mean. By staying on Facebook, I was contributing to the problem.
I have worked in social media for over 20 years now. I spent a lot of time, and a lot of money, staying on top of it all, learning more daily and growing with the field. I know the good, the bad and the ugly of it, and I try to focus on the good. Social media has so much potential: networking, education, entertainment, sharing of resources, supporting one another, preventing loneliness, informing people of cool products and services that could make their lives better or more enjoyable…the list goes on. Why then is it used so much now as an “I’m right, you’re wrong!” platform?
The good on social media is waning lately, and the bad and ugly are taking over. It’s harder and harder to find positive interactions. I go to watch a dog video, one of my favorite things on Facebook, and I scroll past piles of arguments about things on the news. People don’t comment ever on your wall, blaming an algorithm that isn’t entirely at fault, until they get a chance to argue with or correct you. If we don’t take steps to protect ourselves from it, it can easily take over more than our Facebook feed, but far too much space in our head.
I’m not saying that respectful debates and conversations aren’t a good thing — they’re very necessary, but in this political climate, the respect part is very rarely included. There’s so much bad out there already, we really need to try harder to be kind in what we say and when and how we say it. We aren’t opening eyes and hearts and minds, but closing them, hardening them and alienating them, the very opposite of what we’re supposedly intending to do.
We’ve inflated our sense of importance in the world, assuming our beliefs are not only valid and true, but that others want to hear them. Worse: that others need to hear them. We couldn’t be more wrong.
I won’t go on about this morning’s situation. That person didn’t scare me away from Facebook but she does have the honor of being the cherry on top of a huge, tall, melting sundae I should have put in the freezer months ago.
See, I may be sarcastic, I can gesture to someone who spills my beer at and laughs and I can have the mouth of a sailor if there are no small kids around, but I care. I care about other people, I care about the world and I care about animals. I am a huge advocate of the rights of disabled people and that all people should have homes and medical care. I want good in the world. I believe social media can affect positive change for us all, but only if it’s used right.
I also have a large family, a business to run and a lot of other good things going on in my life. Those things lose my time, attention and emotion when I let someone’s mean behavior on social media get to me.
I can’t do it anymore, and that’s a good thing. I have a son entering his senior year of high school. He needs my attention just as much now as he did when he was in diapers, but just for different reasons. (Parents of young kids, sorry to be discouraging, but it never ends.) I have a marriage that’s celebrating 25 years, and that’s not because I have my head down on my phone arguing with people on Facebook. I have three other kids all enjoying life, and one is getting married next year. I have so much to be proud of with them, and I want to give them only my best.
I also have a home I’ve spent so much on in the last year or so, renovating and remodeling to make it the oasis it should be. I’ve done it, and now I want to enjoy it. I have a good amount of friends who aren’t on Facebook. Oddly enough, I’ve tried to convert them a few times, and I won’t do it again.
I will remain on social media for my work and my clients — I still love the industry and the medium, and I can’t help save it if I walk away — but I’m putting my personal Facebook wall on hold. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. I can still visit the pages of my favorite brands, my friends’ blogs and other businesses I love. I can still support dog shelters and autism communities in groups. I just don’t need to feel compelled to spend 20 minutes trying to craft a personal post that’s got only good intentions, then re-read it for another 20 minutes to be sure it can’t be taken wrong.
What a ginormous waste of time.
If you’re one of those people out there that thrives on only commenting to correct or argue, especially if you barely know the person, consider your motives. Then think about your words before you say them. Do you really know for sure what you’re saying is true? Is it really your business or right or whatever to correct the other person anyway? Is your reply necessary? Does it help anything or just allow you to unload?
If you’re considering that Facebook is draining you, taking a break from social media may be what you need. Spend the time on that To Do list you’ve put off. Smell your roses. Take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to people you DO know. Help a neighbor. Bake cookies with your kids. Turn off the news and turn on the music or a movie. Stay actively and mentally involved with what you’re doing, instead of wondering what others are doing. I look back and think: at what point did I start caring so much about others’ activities? Why is it important to me to hear so many others’ thoughts? And why in the world do I need to share of mine?
Facebook used to be a safe place. My page is locked down tight, with privacy restrictions left and right. If someone’s a friend on my page, it’s because I trust them. I expect them to realize that trust and not abuse it. Maybe I’m weird in that I want it to remain a nice place….or maybe I’m not. I think society has lost its boundaries, and has forgotten that we can have opinions without needing to enforce them on others. That makes me wrong for sharing and them wrong for telling me I’m wrong. That’s a lot of wrong, too much to sort out, and that alone says it’s time for me to take a break.
No more sharing kids’ photos with 400 people. I’ll share them with 30. When I shared that I had no hot water and needed plumber recommendations, or that I was dying <ha> of some plague a few months back, those argumentative people had no input. Lesson learned, my friends, lesson learned. Rather than opening a constructive conversation, you’ve closed a door. Maybe I could have learned something, because I’m always open to hearing new things or perspectives, but why risk it when the opening statements are nasty? Why leave that door open for a person to walk through if they could potentially just ramp up their nastiness?
If they don’t realize when they’ve crossed a line, it’s up to you to not only close the door, but lock it. I’m not saying you can’t forgive, but know when you’re talking to someone who even wants to acknowledge their behavior. I don’t need someone to give me the benefit of the doubt or assume I meant well to wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face. I know what I mean and what I think, and that’s enough for me. It should be enough for all of us. We need to know where it’s worth continuing to try. Stop wasting your time. We have to get back to focusing on the important things in life, and if you’re a good person, then the opinions of relative strangers shouldn’t matter.
My mom was right: you get more flies with honey than vinegar.
No, thanks. I’m going to get back to enjoying more life offline. I’ll still rock social for my clients and partnerships, because I still believe in it. I’m just going to change how I do it. I want the smile on my face to remain true and I don’t want to feel like I’m hosting a party full of people who only want to be negative. Protect yourselves. Life is too short for meaningless conversations designed to put you on the defensive.