People Skills and (Anti)Social Media

So much of your personal safety can be covered in developing your ability to interact with others as equals. There has been an increase in the attitude of superiority by different groups, and this can and does lead to conflict. Social media allows people to express their opinion, but there is a strange piling on that happens when someone has an opinion that is contrary to the group seeing it. Although there are common sentiments that bullying is wrong, people will resort to bully-type behavior online, and excuse their behavior because of their oh-so-pure motivations. They call people fascist but then shout down other ideas and viewpoints. The hypocrisy of these actions seems to be lost to them.

If you participate in social media you will see varying degrees of posturing, virtue signaling, and a lot of self-serving, look-at-me behavior. Social media is an exercise in narcissism. It has been since the start. People look for ways to generate a small version of fame through likes and shares. Many people hope for the ever elusive viral post. But, nevertheless, they seem to be placated by a modest number of likes.

Personally, I stay nice to everyone as long as possible, and when it comes to friends, it is always possible. At least, it is possible if the friendship is important to you. There was an election recently, and the results had about half of my friends livid, and about half elated, just as the previous election had, only the names had switched categories.

So, after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election I did what seemed reasonable to me; I scrolled past the political rants that I disagreed with or felt were going too far (from either side), I gave a like to the things that made me laugh, and tried to reinforce the positive, familial, non-political posts by engaging the poster with a comment or two. I even gave likes to photos of dinner!

I ended up being dropped as a friend by several people on both sides of the debate. Several others used the unfollow feature quite liberally. And I am fine with that. They still speak to me in a civil tone face to face and on the phone, so it is no big deal to me.

But other people were vicious. The personal attacks, the over-the-top gloating, the hate-filled rhetoric from all sides was overwhelming.

What does the behavior say about our overall people skills as a society?

There is a give and take in human interaction. Even the most tried and true human doormat wants something out of the interaction. But we need to remember that no one is going to give us 100% of what we want, not even Santa. Adults are supposed to know this, but the unfriending and the unfollowing happens. People seem to only want to see that which is agreeable to them and their personal biases, and they willfully refuse to see anything which might make them think or force them to justify their position and views. When you only allow that which agrees with your viewpoint, you are creating an echo chamber.

An echo chamber is not healthy. Surrounding yourself with only voices which spout the same thoughts and soundbites as you does nothing for your own growth. There might be that sense of revenge, or a temporary drop in blood pressure, perhaps a much-needed affirmation that your stance on the subject is correct, but beyond that…

So here is a possible alternative; take a break from news media and social media. I do this often. No matter your preferred news outlet, they have an agenda that has little to do with keeping you informed and a whole lot to do with keeping you coming back to them for more. I will go through times of checking local news media at the time I know they are doing the weather because that is all that I really need from them. I will drop out of social media for days at a time. And it does me good.

The next ingredient is the real key, though; talk to your friends. Even the ones you disagree with on political matters. Not text, not email – talk. Face-to-face or on the phone. This will work wonders to remind you of why they are your friend in the first place.

Also, try to stop placing a value judgment on their ideas. People look at the world through the lens of their life-experiences. Your view is as skewed as theirs is, and no one is 100% correct. Here is a quick test to see if you really understand the issues facing the world: do you think the problem has a simple solution?

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

  • H.L. Menken

If you think it does have a simple solution, you probably do not have a full grasp of the issue. Apply this idea to any of the hot-button issues you feel very emotional about and remind yourself of this. If you think there is an easy answer, you need to do some research. When you allow the understanding that solutions are going to be complex then you open yourself to the possibility that your friend does not look at things the way that he or she does out of stupidity, but out of a different context for solving problems. Maybe then we will stop labeling each other without much thought about the people we are labeling. Friends should be able to question one another’s methods for solving problems without questioning their motivations or character.

Anyway, that is my two cents. Be nice to each other.